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A special class of Sharks seniors

Humble beginnings to a successful program, these guys have seen it all

Published October 20, 2006

[Times photo: M. N. Golden]
Quarterback Josh Ortiz, top, is proud his Sharks no longer are the "doormat of the county."

BROOKSVILLE - Four years ago, Mike Cole arrived at Nature Coast standing 6 feet and weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 pounds. His height hasn't changed, but his weight sure has.

"I grew out, but not up," said Cole, now a 6-foot 260-pound defensive end.

The transformation of Nature Coast as a high school and a football team has been just as dramatic. Tonight, the Sharks' senior night game against Hernando will take on added meaning as the first four-year class of seniors takes the field for their final home game.

When guys like Cole and Lee Lehman and David Kriner arrived on campus in 2002, the Sharks' football stadium didn't exist. The weight room was there, but the only equipment was a bench and some plates.

"It didn't feel like a high school," Kriner said.

Nature Coast didn't look like a football team either, winning just five games in its first two seasons of varsity play. This year, though, everything has changed. The Sharks are 6-1 and have an opportunity to clinch a district title tonight against Hernando. They have beaten Springstead, and they have recorded their first district wins in school history.

And they have grown together. As a team, and as a student body.

We asked some of this year's seniors to look back on their careers and talk about the distance the program has traveled over the past four years.

[Last modified October 19, 2006, 22:33:46]

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