Once again, Bears must sit

Sanctions against SPC mean that for the fourth time in five years, they won't play in preseason.

Published August 18, 2006

BROOKSVILLE -- Last year it was lightning. Three years ago it was a soggy field.

And who can forget the great Water Bottle Virus of 2004?

"Basically, the kids were mouthing the water bottles," Central coach Cliff Lohrey said. "It spread like wildfire."

In each of the past five years, Central has attempted to play a preseason game against St. Petersburg Catholic. And in all but one of them, the game has been canceled. So Lohrey was hardly surprised earlier this summer when he learned the Bears would again miss out on a preseason game because of sanctions imposed against SPC by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

"It's the St. Petersburg Catholic curse," Lohrey said.

Instead of suiting up for a preseason game, Central car-pooled its way up to Bushnell Thursday night to watch Hernando, which the Bears face in next Friday's season opener, play South Sumter. Though Lohrey and his players concede there is a downside to missing out on a preseason game, they all say they are attempting to look at the positives.

The advantage Central enjoys is two-fold. First, unless a player suffers a hip flexor while walking through the turnstile at Raiders field, the Bears will emerge from this week healthy. Second, while Central will get a sneak peak at Hernando, the Leopards won't have the same luxury.

The injury aspect is particularly beneficial. Central has just 24 players on its roster, and defensive lineman Walter Linton is sidelined indefinitely with a broken leg (Lohrey said he will not play against Hernando). Quarterback Chase Walker missed the first two weeks of practice with a separated clavicle, and though he has returned to the practice field, he still isn't cleared to make contact.

"We're not going to get on the Ark, that's for sure," Lohrey said. "We don't have two of anything anywhere."

Still, Lohrey said the team is relatively healthy, and that the lack of a preseason game affords the Bears an extra opportunity to remain that way.

"You have to look at it in a positive way," senior running back Carlos Becaria said. "We are going to be a little healthier for the first game of the season and we have a little more time to prepare for it. While Hernando is playing this week, we have a little more time to get better for them."

That preparation started Thursday night as Central scouted the Leopards. Hernando coach Matt Smith said the extra look at his team will likely give the Bears an advantage.

Still, both teams agree their season opener at Hernando won't be decided by what did or did not happen in the preseason.

"It's a little bit of a disadvantage; even though it's not a put down on paper game, you can feel out who you have," Central junior safety Heath Heroux said. "But I don't think it will be a big deal. It's not going to hurt us."

If anything, the players seem to think the extra time off will help, at least from a motivation standpoint.

"It puts a little more fire under you and gets you ready to go," Becaria said.

Besides, the running back added, "We're used to it."