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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
ST. PETERSBURG - They have been together for less than two years, but Brandon Hamilton, Joey Cuda and John Lancaster have amassed individual numbers - as well as team success - that rank them among the best quarterback, running back, receiving tandems in the county.
Few teams have been able to contend with the accuracy of Hamilton (839 yards passing), the relentless, driving style of Cuda (576 yards rushing) and the elusiveness of Lancaster (609 yards receiving).
The Crusaders have used all of their weapons to win four of five games. Tonight, they close out their shortened season against Bradenton Christian. "It's tough because we feel like we're really starting to come into our own," Hamilton said.
Hamilton, Cuda and Lancaster grew up playing baseball. But they decided to give football a try when they found out the school was starting a program last season.
The trio took their lumps on a team that went 1-5 a year ago. "The toughest part was losing," Cuda said.
This year, they have found their rhythm. Coach Shannon Brooks said he scrapped the Wing-T in favor of a spread offense to take advantage of his trio's athleticism.
"I thought it was best to put them in space and let them make plays on their own," Brooks said.
The numbers, and wins, have come against a weak schedule. Brooks plans to change that with a 10-game schedule.
"We really didn't know what to expect when we started the program," Brooks said. "But the kids have responded and picked up things so fast. I don't think anyone could foresee that."