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Same old situation

The Eagles are out to prove they can notch a winning season with a slew of new starters.

By VINCENT THOMAS
Published August 25, 2006


SPRING HILL - The Eagles are standing in basically the same spot as this time last season: looking to repeat the success of the previous year, but doing it with a squad missing some of the previous season's stalwarts.

Seth Metz is gone. The Eagles' leading rusher and tackler in 2005 is in South Dakota now at Northern State University. His 2005 backfield mate, Mike King, last season's 80-yard touchdown threat, is off to Kentucky, with Andrew Ortiz, last year's team leader, to play for Union College. The leading receiver is gone, with Chris Ferguson graduating to Weber State. The short-yardage touchdown specialist and run-stuffer, Kenny Beeker, is in Kansas at Southwestern College. The big bear on the offensive line, Chris Sibilia-Wait, is in Kansas, too, at Baker University. Quick ends Charlie Hulse and Josh Golden are gone.

But the aforementioned group weren't marquee names coming into the 2005 season. They were kids filling in holes, just like many of this season's Eagles.

"We're really confident that we can come in this season and be really good," said quarterback John Hogeland, one of the few returning starters. "We've worked so hard during the summer. Guys are ready to step up."

Coach Bill Vonada is as cautious a coach as you'll meet. He's apprehensive about asserting whether this current team is regional playoff material.

"Every team is unique. You lose players every year. But it's all about how you bounce back," Vonada said. "How do you respond? We want to be a good team. We've seen some guys that have potential. But we have to show up and work."

After last year's regular-season finale Vonada said that he saw a lot of the guys who made an impact coming down the pike. He figured King and Ortiz and Beeker and Ferguson would step up. He voiced the same about this season's squad.

Hogeland is firm in the quarterback slot. Victor Schick will split carries with a group of rushers that could include David Bushnell, Josh Magrini or Nature Coast transfer Mike Greco.

Vonada also spoke about "hybrid" players like Schick and Magrini who could split time in the backfield and at wideout.

Last season, Jeff Haynes was the team's second-leading receiver in catches, yards and touchdowns. He and his twin brother, Jason, who had touchdown runs of 46 and 86 in the spring game, seemed poised to shine this season as the 2005 school year ended. But Vonada, unwilling to go into specifics, said the brothers' role on this season's team is still cloudy, offering their participation in summer workouts and preseason practices as the only insight.

While the situation with the Hayneses sorts itself out, Joseph Pagano, Derek Skinner, Glenn Clarke, Gerard Robilard and Alex Oliver are among the potential players who could line up at wide receiver for the season opener.

The most intense preseason battle, said Vonada, has been for the three linebacker positions. Nate Schafer, Anthony Scarantino, Darius Agard, John Bailey and Nick Jones are fighting for a starting slot.

Last season, the Eagles shocked everyone on the North Suncoast and opened the season by routing rival Pasco 34-7. They start this season with the same opponent. Schick said he's looking forward to making the same statement.

"We're pumped," he said. "But we're trying to go into the game and remember what Coach always tells, which is we should try to come out of every week 1-0."