By JOHN COTEY and STEVE LEE
Published August 22, 2006
Chris Taylor never got the quarterback battle he envisioned this fall, but he did get the kind of performance Friday that makes him happy regardless of who starts.
With Charley Minichino still out with an injured knee, T.J. Haab started the preseason game vs. Lecanto and threw two touchdowns in a 35-0, three-quarter victory.
Haab substituting for Minichino was nothing new.
The junior took over when Minichino tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the third game last season - the Rams' only victory, a 33-6 triumph over River Ridge - and got better as the season went on. By the end, he looked comfortable behind center and closed his first campaign on varsity by throwing for more than 150 yards and almost shocking playoff-bound Zephyrhills.
Taylor said Haab will start Friday's opener at Mitchell as Minichino is not quite ready. But once Minichino is ready, the quarterback job will be open again.
"When Charlie comes back, he'll have the opportunity to beat T.J. I think the competition breeds success," Taylor said.
If not that, then depth. Last year the Rams had a steep learning curve to overcome with the change of quarterbacks. This year, Taylor expects to use both players.
At running back, Taylor was pleased with Sean Gillespie's performance in absence of starter and 2006 county rushing leader Byronell Arline, who has an injured hand but should start Friday.
FLASHY DEBUT: It took 37 minutes and 45 seconds for Hudson freshman Zack Wynn to throw his first touchdown, a 6-yarder to Vance Lizama in the fourth quarter of the preseason loss to Citrus. There definitely will be more - a lot more.
The promising freshman has been given the reins of the Cobra offense with no second guessing from coach Mark Nash. He could be the second four-year starting quarterback at Hudson, following in the footsteps of Kyle Hatcher.
As for leading the Cobras to the playoffs, as Hatcher did last season when Hudson won its first district title and played in its first region final, Nash said that is too much to ask now. Especially considering the graduation of 19 seniors.
Making matters worse is the loss of three starters to injuries last Friday: two-way linemen Travis Tindall (shoulder) and Paul James (knee) are expected to at least miss the season opener against River Ridge, and defensive end Jake Stafford (ankle) could be out half the season or longer.
Wynn helped ease some of those concerns. Though he looked harried at times, the coach said he looked poised and made several solid passes to Lizama, Jake McFadden and Dylan Jordan.
"He's the real deal," Nash said. "He makes freshman mistakes, but his poise is just remarkable. He's a (former Land O'Lakes and current FSU quarterback) Drew Weatherford-type kid. He's going to be that good."
SHORT ON THE RIGHT SIDE: Gulf coach Jay Fulmer wasn't pleased with his team's offense, which racked up more than 200 yards passing and almost another 200 rushing, but came away empty on six trips inside the 20-yard line of Nature Coast.
But that may pale in comparison to how Fulmer feels if starting right guard Josh Palva has to miss more than just Friday's opener after his ejection in the preseason contest.
The Florida High School Athletic Association mandates a one-game suspension for unsportsmanlike ejections, but if it's deemed gross unsportsmanlike, conduct that suspension can be up to six weeks.
Fulmer said he watched the tape and doesn't think it warrants more than one game, but with the FHSAA and referees cracking down on such behavior, he's keeping his fingers crossed.