tampabay.com

No one-hit wonder

Unlike last season, one player won't define the Sharks or their success.

By VINCENT THOMAS
Published August 25, 2006


BROOKSVILLE - Last season, the Sharks had high hopes. It was their second season of varsity play, stud athlete Josh Ortiz was taking over the quarterback slot to give them some versatility and, most important, Rian Williams was returning. Nature Coast coach Jamie Joyner was going to ride Williams, hopefully, to a winning season and put Nature Coast football on the map.

But Williams injured his knee in the first regular-season game, missed the season and the Sharks - with virtually no plan B - wilted, winning just two games.

Joyner advises competitors not to expect the same this season.

"When we lost Rian last year, we lost our identity. We were so reliant on him. That won't happen again this season," the three-year coach said. "That's the biggest lesson I've learned as a coach.

"We're definitely more prepared this season. If somebody goes down, we feel more confident that we have guys that can step in. Our expectations are much higher."

This season, Ortiz returns for his second season running the Sharks' veer option. He is protected by an offensive line - Brandon Nuby, Sean Borgo, David Kriner and Tim LaRose - that returns with him. The only spot up for grabs, left tackle, will be manned by either incumbent Matt Thompson or Anthony Gutierrez, who Joyner said is showing great promise.

"I love my line the way (Seattle Seahawk) Shaun Alexander loves his," Ortiz said.

"With the whole offensive line coming back, that means they're all comfortable with the playbook and we can do different things with audibling, blocking schemes and things. It definitely helps their communication and confidence."

The backfield is up in the air. Starting senior safety Mike Dorsey - who at 5-foot-5, 156 is the smallest Shark, but built like a compact truck - is battling sophomore Eric Williams, Rian's cousin, for carries.

"I knew it was going to be a battle coming in," Dorsey said. "Eric is a little quicker and I'm a little stronger. I'm all for whatever is better for the team."

While the running attack sorts itself out, Joyner said the team is committed to opening the offense and not being as one-dimensional as last season, setting a 1,500-yard goal for passing yards. In the spring game, Ortiz and Stephen Pelaez connected on several bombs.

Though Pelaez will focus on linebacker duties, he'll also see work at a variety of offensive positions, much like last season. Ortiz's primary receiving target, however, will be Brian Undested, who started last season.

Defensively, Jason Joens and Cody Fritsch will anchor the linebacker corps and Mike Cole, D.J. Williams and Preston Williams will hold down the line.

Then there are guys like sophomore Tadd Govadich pressing expected starters at several positions. Joyner said players like Govadich are exactly why he doesn't expect a repeat of last season, because there are several guys ready to step up in case of injury or ineptitude.

"We had some growing pains last year, but we're starting to click now," Joyner said.