With last year's star running back now graduated, look for standout linebacker Corey Drummond to step in on both sides of the ball to pick up the slack.
By DEREK LaRIVIERE
Published August 25, 2006
BROOKSVILLE - The climb for the Hernando Christian Academy program has been steady over the years as the school drives toward respectability on the gridiron.
Last season, playing as an independent in the FHSAA, the Lions finished with their first winning record at 6-4. Coach Steve Johnson, the man who has been around since the inception of the program and went to bat for football at Hernando Christian with the school board, is still at the helm.
The driving force behind the Lions' successful season in 2005 was a stout defense that did the job when it needed to and an offensive attack headed by running back Ryan Walczak.
Walczak had the best year any player has ever had for Hernando Christian, setting a school record by scoring four touchdowns in one game. He has since graduated, leaving plenty of questions in his wake.
"Losing Ryan was a big blow to our offense, and we still haven't found a clear-cut replacement at tailback," said Johnson. "Although I don't want to overload him, Corey (Drummond) will most likely get a majority of the carries."
Overloading Drummond, the senior middle linebacker and fullback, is a possibility with him playing ironman football all season.
Drummond formed a dangerous one-two punch in the backfield last season alongside Walczak.
With Walczak receiving out of the backfield and breaking outside for long runs, Drummond pounded the ball between the tackles.
Drummond also left his mark on defense as a heady, aggressive middle linebacker. He led the team in tackles and became more vocal as the season went on.
Starting quarterback Steve Johnson also returns for his father and coach. Johnson, another senior, played almost exclusively under center in 2005, but after working hard at camps during the summer, he hopes to get some time on defense at free safety.
"You need to be versatile to make a team in college," said the younger Johnson, "and that is my ultimate goal once I am finished here."
The offense lacks punch after Drummond and Johnson, though, as the team loses its top receiving and ground threat. With a multitude of sophomores on the roster, Coach Johnson will be filling holes on the offensive line and at the skill positions.
The balance for Hernando Christian was about 60-40 run-to-pass, and Coach Johnson does not expect that to change.
"It doesn't matter what we have to work with," he said. "We have a system here that we intend to drive home. Once these kids all get a grasp, we'll be that much better as we work our way through the schedule."