tampabay.com

With seniority comes much responsibility

Chris Doran is one of the few Leopard seniors, so he'll be key in helping contain Zephyrhills.

By DAVID MURPHY
Published September 15, 2006


BROOKSVILLE - Chris Doran was sitting at a plastic lunch table, ticking off the various names.

James Thomas? He's at Central Florida, working on his grades.

Brock Byrd? He's in Atlanta, attending community college.

Fabian Jackson? Haven't heard from him.

"I still miss all those guys from last year," said Doran, a receiver/defensive back.

Life as a senior on this year's Hernando squad can sometimes get a little bit lonely. One year after an upperclassmen-dominated squad led the Leopards to the playoffs, guys like Doran are few in far between. In fact, there are only nine of them. That might not seem like a big deal, but then you take a look at Hernando's opponent tonight and you see why guys like Doran will need to step up.

Zephyrhills enters the game riding one of its best starts in recent memory. The Bulldogs are 3-0 and fresh off a 35-6 win over River Ridge. Much of their success has been due to senior quarterback Sederrik Cunningham, who has established himself as one of the top offensive weapons on the North Suncoast.

Despite playing in a county that features prolific passers such as Land O'Lakes' Drew Weatherford and Gulf's Alton Voss, Cunningham is second in Pasco County with 356 passing yards and ninth in rushing yards with 139.

But Cunningham isn't the Bulldogs' only experienced weapon. Senior running back/cornerback Cannellious Ansley is fifth in the county with 243 rushing yards. Senior Michael Floyd is the county's top receiver, having caught 14 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns.

"They do have some talent," Hernando coach Matt Smith said.

Last year, Hernando gave up two interception returns for touchdowns in a 21-7 loss to Zephyrhills. This year, the Leopards are coming off a frustrating 22-17 loss to Lake Weir in which they gave up three fourth-down conversions on the winning drive: one by fake punt, one by penalty and one on a winning touchdown pass.

It might be a quantum leap to connect those mistakes to the youth on Hernando's roster, but seniors like Doran and running back Robert Smith, who has rushed for 292 yards on 37 carries in the Leopards' first two games, know they must take control of the team.

Doran is one of the more unheralded Leopards. He moved to Brooksville from Clearwater as a freshman. Last year, as a junior, he earned starting spots on offense and defense. This year, he is the team's top receiver. In a Week 1 win over Central, his fourth-down reception in Bears territory was one of the game's biggest plays.

Against Zephyrhills, he'll have to do more of the same.

"You have to step up if you are a senior," he said. "It's expected."