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Revamped Sharks

The Nature Coast football team will punctuate three weeks of practice with its spring game tonight against St. Petersburg. Times staff writer Kellie Dixon caught up with coach Jamie Joyner for a pregame chat.

By KELLIE DIXON
Published May 18, 2007


The Nature Coast football team will punctuate three weeks of practice with its spring game tonight against St. Petersburg. Times staff writer Kellie Dixon caught up with coach Jamie Joyner for a pregame chat.

 

Why schedule St. Petersburg for the spring game?
We just wanted to kind of challenge ourselves a little bit. We played Wildwood every other year. St. Petersburg is a 5A school and traditionally they're pretty big, pretty fast and pretty athletics. We wanted to play against tough competition.

How are y'all approaching this game?
We only return three guys on offense and four starters on defense, so we're just going to go in there and compete and see how our guys react. It will be the first time these guys as a group go out and play together. It will be an opportunity for us to evaluate talent and try some different combinations of kids.

How good is freshman running back Tevin Drake, and how much can folks expect to see him in the game?
Tevin Drake is the real deal, and he's a big part of our game plan. That won't change in the spring game.

Who has made the most progress during spring practice?
Eric Williams, a rising junior. We moved him to wide receiver from running back. He's a kid that can make some things happen with the ball. He's been catching the ball well, and he's hard to handle out in space.

Which little-known players could make a real impact this fall?
Tim LaRose 6-foot-3, 302-pound offensive tackle. He's our offensive lineman, but I think next year being his senior year, he's going to make a bigger impact on the team. These young guys have been under the shadow of the four-year seniors we had going through. But you can see in the spring that they want to step up and make their mark. (LaRose) has got a little attitude about him, a little swagger and he's aggressive on offense. He just really goes out there and gets after people.

Another impact player is Braddie Ellison (6-1, 205-pound rising sophomore). He's a freshman that we moved to tight end. Last year on JV he played linebacker, some fullback. ... We moved him (to tight end) because he's a big boy, and he's strong; he's fast. He can move around and he's had a really good offseason.

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1430

St. Petersburg at Nature Coast
Today,
7:30 p.m.
The opponent: The Green Devils went 4-6 last season, finishing runnerup in Class 5A, District 10, before losing to Dunedin 21-0 in the first round of the playoffs. They'll be looking to fill the void of offensive lineman Lawon Scott, who will be a freshman at Ole Miss in the fall.
Outlook: A younger, but not necessarily less talented Nature Coast squad will take the field today. The Sharks will miss 13 starters from its 2006 team that went 8-2 in the regular season, won the district and reached the playoffs. So Nature Coast will lean on key returners, like QB-LB Stephen Pelaez and RB Tevin Drake to lead the team. Pelaez mostly played receiver and linebacker last year.

Central at Ocala West Port
Today,
7 p.m.
The opponent: West Port is a 3A school, but it plays in a tough district with teams like North Marion and Dunnellon. The Wolf Pack returns 13 seniors and features senior running back Dennis Jenkins.
Outlook: Central has plenty of returning firepower, particularly on defense, but it also has four new starters on the offensive line and an entirely new backfield. This will be a good chance for the newcomers to start to get comfortable with each other.

Hernando at Umatilla
Saturday,
7 p.m.
The opponent: Historically, Umatilla isn't a great football school. The Bulldogs went 3-7 last season, getting shut out three times.
Outlook: Perhaps the most intriguing of all county spring games, it will be interesting to see how Hernando's new spread offense looks. Though the Leopards graduated senior running back Robert Smith, three key players return in the backfield: George Fribley, Nick Sizemore and Justin Braswell.