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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A better deal?
By ERIC MUSKATEVC
Published August 25, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - Bob Dare has never received those phone calls, or made them.
"Nobody's coming here to play football," said Dare, in his 18th season as Northside Christian's head coach. "And of course we're not giving away T-shirts or money either, so we don't get those players. We play with the hand we're dealt."
In those terms, Northside folded in 2005, finishing 3-7. The upside, however, is that the players Dare does have witnessed it and aren't too happy about it.
"We're not used to being at the bottom," said Dare, in his 27th year as athletic director at the school. "There's a whole new energy this year. The kids know that last year was not a good time. They came out this summer knowing exactly what they need to do, to commit, and it's been pretty contagious."
The Mustangs have had small graduating classes in recent years, and much of this fall's roster will be filled with players who have been in the varsity system since they were freshmen. "We've got a good foundation behind us, with some of our bigger classes really coming into their own now," said Dare.
JUNIORS: Only four starters on offense graduated last year. Eight juniors were on the team as freshmen in 2004. Of them, quarterbacks Drew Phillips and Tyler Stowell are still in a "battle" for the outright starting position and "both look really good," said Dare.
Also, Chad Rose and Zach Higham will front both lines. Lewis Prince, Sabith Maliackal and Danny Speake will be used as wideouts, extra-backs, and at all places on defense. "It's still Ironman football for us," said Dare.
SIRGEY'S SURGES: Northside's most complete offensive weapon will be senior running back Cody Sirgey, who led the Mustangs in rushing yards in 2005. He can shake off tackles with a straight-up running style and a powerful stature. Along with fellow senior Brett Anderson, the two should be able to wear down defenses. And look for Speake to take as many handoffs as Sirgey.
MOTIVATION: Dare got the school to buy his players $40,000 in workout equipment. "Their commitment is, again, contagious," said Dare. "This has seriously given us an advantage we never used to have."
FACING A FORTress: Class A, District 5 foe Fort Meade, which has won two of the past three state titles, has been a nightmare for Northside. Last year it handed the Mustangs their worst loss (43-7 at home). This year, Fort Meade will be Northside's first real challenge in Week 4.