Semipro Eagles merge with Raiders

Published August 18, 2006

The Hernando Eagles are no longer.

Sort of.

The county's semipro football team, which began play in 2002, has merged with another area team, the Gulf Coast Raiders, and will be known as the Gulf Coast Eagles.

The team will still play its games in Hernando County, according to owner Abraham Dowdell, although maybe elsewhere than Hernando High.

"Last year was my fifth year," Dowdell said. "It's time for my organization to grow."

The Eagles will continue to participate in the Southern States Football League. Two years ago they won the SSFL's Rice Bowl. This year they went 5-4.

The Raiders, meanwhile, went 9-2 in 2006, winning the National Football Conference's Southern Division Championship.

Dowdell, who said the Eagles averaged about 300 spectators per game last season, said he hopes the merger will widen the fan base and increase attendance. Former NFL running back Ernest Givins, who coached the Eagles last year, won't return to the club. The St. Petersburg native will instead coach the St. Pete Sharks next year. Raiders owner Michael Minks will coach the new Gulf Coast Eagles.

The new team will hold tryouts Saturday, Aug. 26, at Land O' Lakes Community Center in Pasco County. Each player will be charged a tryout fee of $35.