Tests on tap

With key starters missing and a tough schedule, the Terriers have a hard road to the playoffs.

Published August 25, 2006

TAMPA - Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia is high on this year's team, even after losing 14 starters from an undefeated 2005 club.

"When you lose players of the quality of Jarred Fayson (Florida) and Don Moseley (Mississippi), the natural reaction is a letdown," Garcia said. "But we have such athletic talent coming back that we are all optimistic about having a very fine season."

Garcia, in his 14th year at the helm, envisions making the playoffs again this year. "Last year, we went undefeated and then it was "one and done" in a first-round loss. We want to get further this year," he said.

Losing 11 starters on offense and three on defense, Garcia has his work cut out for him. Duplicating last year's first two games, Hillsborough plays a preseason game against 5A champ Lakeland, then opens the regular season journeying to 4A state finalist Armwood, which it defeated 21-20 in 2005 when the Hawks missed a last-second extra point.

"In addition to Armwood, other 2005 playoff teams we'll face are Chamberlain, Jefferson, Middleton, and Plant. No question, our schedule will put us to the test," Garcia said.

THROUGH THE AIR: Garcia will call on a junior transfer from Armwood, quarterback Eric Fennell, to guide the Terriers attack. In 2005, Hillsborough rushed for 2,732 yards and threw for 901. Garcia expects that ratio to change.

"Even though we'd like to get closer to 60-40 towards the run, we are counting on Eric and as talented a group of receivers as we've ever had to make our passing game work effectively," Garcia said.

Juniors Terrence Mitchell and Angelo Gennarro, along with freshman Khiry McQuay and senior Kendall Brown, provide deep threats in an open offensive set.

"Every one of them has great moves and possesses outstanding athletic moves," Garcia said. Tight end Charlie Hughlett also is a receiving threat.

ON THE GROUND: Expect Hillsborough to have its usual heft up front. The starting line of Karl Denner, Brent Gardner, Darrell Meckley, Allen Nunez, and Willie Francis averages 270 pounds. Junior Iziah Wyche, fresh off a three-touchdown effort against Gaither in the spring game, will be the main running threat. Lindsey Lamar will share ball-carrying duties with Wyche while Kashief Steen and Kiari Gillepsie will supply blocking power at fullback.

DEFENSE: Hillsborough gave up a stingy 210 yards per game in 2005 and figures to do as well or better with eight starters returning.

Possessed of skill and speed up front, the linebackers anchor Hillsborough's defense. Marc Thomas (6-0, 200) is speedy and reads keys effectively, reacting from sideline to sideline. He'll be aided by rover back Chris Childs and the quickest of the linebackers, Floyd Youmans. The secondary is braced by junior Chuck Grace, a player Garcia says is an all-county prospect.