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Points of emphasis

Spring football practice started this week and, as Hernando County teams get to work, here are some issues they will be trying to address.

By KELLIE DIXON
Published May 6, 2007


Who will play for Central on the offensive and defensive lines?

Overshadowed by the loss of running back DuJuan Harris, who rushed for over 1, 600 yards and led the Bears to a district title are the players who blocked for him. Four of Central's five starters on the offensive line graduate this year, meaning coach Cliff Lohrey will be paying special attention to the position throughout the spring. While Duane Marks should prove to be a capable replacement for Harris, Jason Morton is the only returning starter up front.

How quickly will Hernando adapt to Rodney Byrd?

Not only do the Leopards have a new head coach, they also have a new offensive coordinator in Eric Riggins, a former Hernando star who spent the past few seasons as an assistant at Nature Coast. Byrd and Riggins plan on implementing a spread offense similar to the Wing-T Matt Smith ran. The Leopards have a talented running back in George Fribley, who should enter his senior season as one of the top talents in the county. Jason Davies, who started at quarterback last season, enters the spring as the starter.

How can Nature Coast build on its most successful season?

By playing tougher competition during the season. The Sharks, in their fourth year with a varsity program, have scheduled six teams that reached the 2006 playoffs.

What could appear to make that lineup even more daunting is the fact that Nature Coast is losing 13 seniors off last year's squad that went 8-2 in the regular season, won the district and reached the region quarterfinals.

But Sharks coach Jamie Joyner isn't worried.

"We're really going to be young and inexperienced, " Joyner said. "But we feel like we're going to have more talent."

The Sharks, who had about 65 players out for practice Thursday, have more depth this season.

Stephen Pelaez should fit in where Josh Ortiz left off at quarterback and run the option behind a line led by Tim Larose and Brandon Nuby.

Britt Langley, Tadd Govedich and DJ Williams are competing for the starting fullback spot.

What will Springstead focus on this spring as the Eagles try to bounce back from a disappointing season?

Mental toughness. And that's something you don't build sitting in the air conditioning, coach Bill Vonada added with a smile.

You get that working hard under the sun on the football field, pushing through yet another drill even though you're tired.

Vonada, who is more concerned with seeing progress this spring than determining starters, is excited about the players he has returning.

Before Thursday's practice, he rattled off names like Ben Noury, Dan Wilson, Nick Jones, Nate Schafer, Corey Hess and so on. All, Vonada said, have put in time during the offseason.

But the difference comes back to the intangible of mental toughness.

"That's what we're searching for this spring, " Vonada said.

How will Hernando Christian fare, considering the Lions practically have the youngest team in the program's short history?

The young Hernando Christian squad, led by first-year coach David Raley, likely will struggle. While the Lions return all but one starter on defense, that was linebacker Corey Drummond, the first Lions' football player to receive a scholarship.

The Lions also practically graduate their entire offense, so Raley said the team is putting its emphasis on its offensive line.

Raley, an assistant coach with the Lions for the past three seasons, said his young line will include sophomores Josh Westfall and Ethan Whitten plus freshman Tim Worsley.

"He who blocks best wins, " Raley said. "It doesn't make any difference how fancy the offensive system is."

Players to watch

Luis Delgado, OL-DL, Springstead

The offensive and defensive lineman injured his knee early and missed the 2006 season. He has improved in the offseason, along with many of his teammates.

Tevin Drake, RB, Nature Coast Tech

The running back made an impact after getting called up from junior varsity. As a freshman, Drake recorded 857 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

George Fribley, RB, Hernando

Always one of the faster players in the county, Fribley improved as an all-around player last season. By the end of the year, he was the Leopards' go-to back. It will be interesting to see how much he has improved by the start of his senior season.

Heath Heroux, S, Central

The Armwood transfer burst onto the scene last year, establishing himself as one of the hardest hitters in the county.

Duane Marks, RB, Central

Marks had the unfortunate role of backing up DuJuan Harris last season but still managed to excel whenever he touched the ball. "Anyone who doesn't think Duane Marks is an outstanding football player will be surprised, " Bears coach Cliff Lohrey said.

Nick Pauliott, LB, Hernando

Hernando athletic director Brent Gaustad has said that Pauliott has one of the best noses for the ball he has seen. Pauliott will enter the year as one of the top defensive players in the county.

Stephen Pelaez, QB-LB, Nature Coast Tech

Talented two-way player expected to step in at quarterback and add another dimension to the Sharks' option offense while continuing to be an impact player on defense.

David Rotteveel, QB, Hernando Christian

After transferring from Hudson, he was ineligible to play until the last two games of the 2006 season. He played receive, but is expected to quarterback the Lions' predominantly West Coast offense this year.

Chase Walker, QB, Central

Lohrey predicts big things for his senior quarterback. Walker improved throughout last season and came up big in a come-from-behind win over Springstead. He has decent size, a good arm and can run.

Spring games

Central: Friday, May 18 at Ocala West Port

Hernando: Saturday, May 19 at Umatilla

Hernando Chr.: Thurs., May 17 at All Saints Academy, 6:30 p.m.

Nature Coast: Friday, May 18 vs St. Petersburg, 7:30 p.m.

Springstead: Friday, May 25 vs. Seminole Osceola, 7 p.m.