The reins come off

Published August 25, 2006

TARPON SPRINGS - If you ask George Kotis who's been running Tarpon Springs' offense the past 20 years, you've found the right guy.

Ask him what Tarpon's record will be this season, well, then you're talking to the wrong guy.

"I'm not like those coaches out there that say we're going to be 2-8, or somewhere in the middle. I'm not that coach, so I won't say it," said Kotis, promoted to the top spot after Bruce Buck resigned this spring. "We're going to be 10-0. We don't lose and we won't. That's how I coach."

That may sound foolish to some, but for the unabashedly confident and veteran coordinator, it's nothing he hasn't heard before.

"Some people want to ask me what kind of offense I run, or what I plan on doing," said Kotis, who spent the past 19 years as an offensive assistant for the Spongers. "Look at what we've done, I've been here forever. There were always reins on me before though. They'd all be wondering when George was going to do something stupid. Now, no reins."

And with that, Kotis will let his horses roam free. The Spongers return a herd of starters from last year's 8-2 region quarterfinal team, which won Class 4A, District 8 with games to spare, but then lost to Rockledge in the first round of the playoffs by two points.

Calvin Wood, a senior and true tailback that - if not for a twisted ankle late in the season - would have been the county's most consistent and versatile back. Then there's Donnel Engram, a junior tight end/defensive end with great size, hands and Division I potential. "He's the man everyone's scared of," said Kotis. And yes, there's a Gamble. Look for Marquise as a wideout and running back.

THROUGH THE AIR: Enter Danny Reyes, the next Matt Selby, the former quarterback who rewrote the school's record book as he grew into the position. Reyes, a sophomore, is big, mature, can throw and can throw long.

DEFENSE! DEFENSE! En-gram and George VanRiper are set to have a promising season coming off the ends. The Spongers didn't allow a passing touchdown in 2005. That trend might continue with Gamble returning and Wood taking a more active role in the defense. Along with John Swan, Brad Wooten, Dom Ingargiola, and Jimmy Thornton, the Maroon defense is back.

INTANGIBLES: A lot went well in 2005, having scored 40 or more points in four games. Credit Steve Bennett and Mark Bannon. Bennett, a senior, brings speed, power and a sense of timing, offensively and defensively. Bannon, also a senior, can take teams out of the game with his foot. Bannon didn't allow a return in five games last year, consistently sending kickoffs for touchbacks. Look for more of the same from both.