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Largo finds great import for O-line

Largo coach Rick Rodriguez found himself a Canadian coup.

By JOE SMITH
Published May 17, 2007


LARGO - Largo coach Rick Rodriguez found himself a Canadian coup.

Billy Peach, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound junior lineman, enrolled this spring after his family moved from Kingston, Ontario.

Peach, along with returning starting center Travis Feldman, will play big roles in how far the run-happy Packers go this season.

Largo averaged 300 rushing yards and 40 attempts per game in 2006, advancing to the region semifinals. But to get back, Largo will rely on a rebuilt offensive line that has to replace three graduated starters.

The Packers love to run off tackle - just ask Times Player of the Year, junior Brynn Harvey (1, 746 rushing yards) - and now they have an athletic tackle in Peach to follow.

"He's just huge, " Feldman said. "He's got powerful legs and can move really well."

Maybe it was the hockey Peach played growing up. Or the pass-happy offense he protected at Kingston's Frontenac Secondary School, ranked among the top teams in Ontario.

Peach, who started two years at center for Frontenac, will have to adjust to a few rule differences; in Ontario, defensive players have to line up at least a yard from the ball and receivers and backs can use Arena Football League-style running starts.

Peach said he's ready. The junior loves how serious football is here in comparison to "hockey is life" in his hometown. Plus, he'll be blocking for Harvey and dual-threat quarterback Leonard Johnson, both of whom are drawing major attention from college scouts.

"We were hoping they'd say, 'He's a Canadian boy, ' and send him back, " joked Frontenac coach Mike Doyle. "We'll really miss Billy a lot."

FIRST-TIME TORNADOES: Clearwater junior Josh Burke is used to setting picks for Luke Loucks during basketball season. But now Burke has put on pads to block for the quarterback in football, too. Burke, at 6-6, 225 pounds, will play left tackle for the Tornadoes in his first football experience. The Tornadoes will also have another first-time lineman in junior Ercan Hocolar (6-4, 270), who missed last season with injuries.

"Burke moves really well, " said Clearwater junior lineman Joe Marshall. "You'd never know he never played football in his life."

SIGNINGS: Pinellas Park had three football players sign Tuesday: Dominic Bell (Grambling), receiver Quinton King (Husson College in Maine) and linebacker Ben Colbert (John Carroll University). At St. Petersburg High: offensive lineman/long snapper Kevin Claypool (Division III Concordia University in Wisconsin) and linebacker Marcus Brown (D-II Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire).

ODDS AND ENDS: St. Petersburg Catholic quarterback David Girardi signed with Geneva College in Pennsylvania. ... Gibbs receiver Larry Murphy and linebacker Raymond Brinson, each entering their senior season, received their first scholarship offers (University at Buffalo). ... Canterbury's lengthy postseason baseball run precluded the Crusaders from holding a spring football classic on Friday.

Fast Facts:

Spring football jamborees

All start at 7:30 p.m.

Friday: PHU at Tarpon Springs; Port Charlotte at East Lake; Dunedin at Bradenton Southeast; Clearwater at CC Catholic; Naples Barron Collier at Lakewood; St. Petersburg at Nature Coast; Northeast at Lakeland George Jenkins; Largo at Sarasota Riverview; Gibbs at Boca Ciega; Cambridge at Shorecrest

Saturday: Seminole at Northside Chr.

May 23: Countryside at Naples Lely

May 24: Pinellas Park at Keswick; Dixie Hollins at Sarasota

May 25: Osceola at Springstead