New look, same goals

South Sumter still plans to be a playoff powerhouse.

Published August 25, 2006

BUSHNELL - Where South Sumter once had star power, it now has brainpower.

Where once it had the two-man touchdown machine of quarterback Jarrod Fleming and wide receiver Carlos Everett, both gone on to Division I schools, it now has the hardnosed leadership of new quarterback Travis Hutcheson. Where it once had a shaky defense, it has the similar squad - only older, wiser and stronger.

The team may be different, but coach Inman Sherman hopes for the same success. Another championship appearance, and maybe this time, a win.

"I don't want to change a whole lot from last season. We've got a lot of the same players back and they want another shot at that big game," he said.

Last year, South Sumter smashed its way to a 12-2 season before the defense crumbled against Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School in the state championship.

Excluding Fleming and Everett, South Sumter has retained much of that championship-contending team, with five returning starters on offense and six on defense

Sherman will shift his offense to a more run-oriented strategy, but with two 6-foot-plus receivers waiting downfield, Hutcheson can still expect to lob some long balls towards the end zone.

One of his favorite targets, senior Dravius Rice, snagged 12 balls last season, including a 50-yard bomb, for 179 total yards and five touchdowns.

Sherman says Hutcheson has become a tremendous team leader and, in the absence of its past stars, helped strengthen the team.

"We lost our go-to guys on offense," Sherman said. "So we are going to have to rely more on solid team play and defensive stops than big offensive plays."

Hutcheson hasn't played quarterback since his freshman year, when he led the JV team to an undefeated season.

Last year he played safety, caught one interception and returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown.

But Hutcheson won't play any defense this year. Sherman is committed to his brains-over-brawn strategy of "two platooning."

"We've discovered that if you take a marginal player and give him a high number of repetitions in only one area, they can really perform. They will even practice harder because they have a starting position," he said.

No South Sumter starter plays both ways, keeping them better rested and more focused on the challenges of their single position.

According to Sherman, South Sumter's most exciting newcomer is freshman Nick Martinez, whose focused attitude and 6-foot 195-pound frame gives him great potential as a linebacker.

Another linebacker, senior Kendall Smith, has committed to Florida State and is returning for one more shot at the state championship.

Last season, Smith racked up 146 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

South Sumter's starting running back is junior Tony Smith, who totaled 208 yards and three touchdowns on 29 attempts.

With so many potential stars, Sherman is anxious for another shot at success.

"All these guys had a great season last year and in the one game that was on television, we didn't play our best. It hurt our pride," he said.

"We want to get back on TV and play a little better."