Making the jump

Published August 25, 2006

PALM HARBOR - The motto, nailed to the concrete wall of Palm Harbor University's practice field, says it all about the Hurricanes. Pride in playing tough, solid defense and never quitting.

Pain from the deaths of former coach Mike June and former player Danny Shea, both of whom passed away in the offseason, still linger. The field is tentatively scheduled to be renamed after June, and coaches are deliberating on other ways to remember him throughout the season.

Having won 10 games in the past four years, varsity has been the hard part. The JV teams have historically played well, going back to undefeated seasons in the late '90s and two straight 5-2 seasons from this year's crop of talent. Just is optimistic the shift will happen under his watch.

"These kids have been competitive at that level and I don't see why we can't be successful at the varsity level," said new head coach Pete Just, an assistant since the school's inception in 1996 who also mentored a handful of NFL players as an assistant with Lakewood, Countryside and his one-year as Dunedin's head coach.

"Unfortunately in the past, we haven't been able to carry it over. We're returning almost everybody, so things are looking real positive."

Everybody includes the offensive and defensive line PHU has prided itself on in the past. Carl Stippert, Eric Hahn, Alex Smith, Adam Galler and Brandon West will clog things up. Joel Wise, a Boca Ciega transfer, will fit in nicely. A talented group of linebackers will be led by senior Matt Hyland, one of the county's hardest-working players, according to Just.

QUARTERBACK(S): Just has seen success in passing the ball, which he says he'll do with both sophomore quarterbacks Anthony Diaz and Sean Shelton. Shelton was the starter last year before breaking his collar midway through the season. He has doubled his brawn this summer and should be able to pick apart a defense, given time to throw.

"Sean's a phenomenal pocket-passer. He has a great arm and a great motion. He really wants the ball this year," Just said. "Diaz will be the bootlegger, more of a playmaking QB."

more OFFENSE: The graduation of Patrick Shelton, Sean's brother, who played tight end and defensive end and earned a ride to Kansas Wesleyan, will be big. PHU likes to get its ends involved and will replace him with senior Bobby Santana and junior Kevin Dickinson.

Shawn McBride and Josh Zorland will be flankers. The real concern will be putting on drives, which is pretty much up to Dejuan Bush. Bush, a true tailback, will take most of the handoffs, having started the last four games of 2005 with moderate success. He's light on his feet and can squeeze through holes easily.

Just for kicks: Joey Kenyon and Dylan Hodill will take on kicking duties.