By JOHN C. COTEY
Published August 25, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - Rick Sanson embraced the No. 1 ranking in the state last year. When his Crusaders were placed atop the Class B poll in the first week, he didn't apologize, didn't say his kids weren't deserving and made darn sure they enjoyed it.
He wonders now whether maybe they didn't enjoy it too much, finishing second in the district and bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.
This year, the experience of being ranked - the Crusaders will likely be somewhere in the poll, close to the top again - should pay off as a large group of returnees is ready to make some postseason magic.
"Last year, we got caught up in it a little bit," Sanson said. "It was all about going to state, we're No. 1. But we forgot about the district stuff. We have to win the district. We have high expectations again, but they are a little more subdued this year."
ON THE GROUND: Jared DiMaggio emerged as one of the county's surprise backs last year, rushing for more than 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"He's not a burner," Sanson said, "but he can make people miss."
The offensive line returns three starters - Tyler Johansson (5-8, 180), Trae Span (6-1, 230) and Kolby Crider (5-9, 175). Ethan Englehardt, the younger brother of last season's starting quarterback Blake Englehardt, is only a sophomore but the biggest amongst the starters at 6-2, 240.
THROUGH THE AIR: The Crusaders have a big hole to fill at quarterback with the departure of Blake Englehardt, the holder of several school records, but his replacement, Jared Stacy, is far from green.
Little known fact: Stacy played quarterback in every Crusader game last season. So the junior brings some experience to the position.
Stacy also has all-state wide receiver Tony Anderson as a target. Anderson, coming off a 1,000-yard season, has 4.5 speed and sure hands. Division I-A schools are interested, too.
DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE! The line will be very inexperienced, and relies on speed rushers Daniel Darden (6-1, 185) and Orve Johansson (5-11, 155). They have a little more strength and experience at linebacker with brothers Mike and Jeff Curtiss, and Jared Boddi. The defensive backfield should be a real strength. Sanson said senior Kenny Shorter (5-9, 160) did not have a pass completed on him last year, and has good speed at 4.6.
JUST FOR KICKS: Jamie Calvert is back as the placekicker, and one of the top players from the soccer team, Kenny Lucas, will punt.