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Pigskin Pirates work up a summer sweat

Coach Anthony Paradiso expects his guys to attend "optional" workouts and they comply.n Four lines of blurb type runs right here. Four lines of blurb type runs right here. Four lines here, plz.

Published July 13, 2006

CRYSTAL RIVER - Four days each week, once in the morning and again in the afternoon, testosterone flows heavily in the cramped workout room beside the gymnasium.

The boys at Crystal River High are becoming men.

Or at least that's what football coach Anthony Paradiso hopes.

"We can't make them big," said Paradiso, who will soon start his first season. "But we can make them bigger."

Paradiso offers two optional workouts each weekday and though he is not paid to attend, he makes it to nearly every one.

So do his players, who know they should come to one each day.

"You have to attend at least 30," said junior Ronnie Baldner, who did not know the consequences for failing to reach the number.

But most players, at least the ones who have bought into Paradiso's new, more serious outlook, say they have no problem lifting weights or running sprints afterward.

"It's tough," said quarterback Shay Newcomer, now packing 190 pounds on his 6-foot frame.

"But it's well worth it."

About 60 players attend regularly, Paradiso said, and in the afternoons lines often form to use machines.

Many players say it's a good problem to have, especially since only about 10 Pirates regularly attended last summer under coach Craig Frederick.

"It didn't seem that important last year," said Frank Laga, a safety and wide receiver who has bulked up to 168 pounds from 155.

Not much, but it's a start.

"I'm gigantic," Laga said with a laugh.

He often leaves feeling tired and weak, but he knows he's getting bigger. And come mid August, he hopes it shows.

"Hopefully we'll do a lot better than last year," Laga said.

Though Florida High School Athletic Association rules prohibit coaches from forcing players to attend the sessions, peer pressure does play a role.

Some team leaders say they will call a teammate who does not show up.

"We feel we need to do this," junior quarterback Wes Lanier said. "The kids stay on them more than the coaches do."

When practice starts officially next month, coaches will test players to determine how hard they worked over the summer, Paradiso said.

Each player also keeps a workout folder to gauge progress.

Most teams offer similar summer programs, but few schools have so many students participating.

Paradiso likes the progress the Pirates are making, though his team still has its share of scrawny underclassmen.

"They're doing a great job," he said.

Brian Sumers can be reached at 352-564-3628 or

[Last modified July 12, 2006, 23:34:56]

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