Will Chargers answer?

Published August 25, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Shorecrest coach Phil Hayford spent all summer preparing for the season. He sent his skill players to a passing camp and kept the weight room staffed for workouts.

Now that the regular season is under way, there is not much time to rev up.

Tonight's game is the test.

The Chargers open at home against Fort Meade, which won a state title in 2004 and has been to the state final five of the past six seasons. Even worse, it is a district game. Last year, Shorecrest lost 37-0 to start a three-game losing streak. The Chargers bounced back, winning five of their last six to make the playoffs.

"It's nice to get that game out of the way first," Hayford said. "Fort Meade always has a strong team and it lets us know where we're at."

THROUGH THE AIR: Shorecrest doesn't win by throwing the ball. Still, returning quarterback Page Harris is capable of making big plays. Paul Gallant is the top returning receiver and tight end Danny Wood (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) will provide a nice safety valve on short and intermediate routes.

ON THE GROUND: The Chargers are always one of the top rushing teams in the county. Brogan Carnes, who had more than 800 yards last season, will get plenty of touches. So will T.J. Smith, who churned out more than 500 yards last season. The line returns Clay Burke, Nick Maliska and Chris Mauro.

DEFENSE! DEFENSE! Take most of the starters on offense and flip them around. Because of depth, or lack thereof, Shorecrest will need many players to play both sides of the ball. Mauro and Carnes are on the defensive line. Burke, Maliska, Wood and Daniel Whitecage are the linebackers. Gallant, Harris and Smith patrol the secondary.

JUST FOR KICKS: Smith is the punter.