tampabay.com

Time for grooming, growing

Zephyrhills will be doing both before the upcoming season after losing several starters.

By CHRIS WAGENHEIM
Published May 20, 2007


ZEPHYRHILLS - Zephyrhills scrimmaged Friday, but neither team had a dominant edge over the other.

Black defeated Orange 13-6 in a game full of fumbles, missed tackles, sacks and blunders. A few players did shine through.

"Some did well, some did some bad things, " coach Tom Fisher said. "Everyone made mistakes (Friday) and I was expecting it."

The Bulldogs lost 14 seniors this season, nine who started and seven who started both ways. Fisher has had to dig deep to fill some of the holes.

"We're young, " Fisher said. "There are players out here that have never played before."

Among the players who haven't played are freshmen, transfers from other sports and a player who has been homeschooled until now. A few of Fisher's defensive stars had to sit out this spring, too.

"Some of our best players didn't play, " Fisher said. "(Quentin) Amos is out from the car accident and (Sean) Gray has a shoulder injury."

Amos, a defensive lineman, is nursing an injured arm sustained in a car wreck and defensive tackle Gray was at the scrimmage but not suited up. Most of those who did suit up were inexperienced, especially the two freshman quarterbacks.

Both quarterbacks fumbled and were sacked more than once. Despite their apparent nervousness, they were at times mobile and able to hit their targets given a little breathing room.

Starting receiver and defensive end Alex Sampson was one of the players who stood out. Sampson had two sacks on one side of the ball, then immediately started catching first downs on the other.

"He's experienced. He's a sophomore, he's gonna be a junior, but he started both ways last year, " Fisher said. "He already has a year, and that is what most of these kids need, a year of varsity competition."

Sampson's receiving counterpart last season, Chris Henry, is making the transition to full-time running back and showed impressive speed when he found some open field.

"I moved him from wideout and he just has to get used to being a running back, " Fisher said. "He is just as green as the freshmen at that position. He is coming along, he just has to learn. ...He tries to rabbit too much, he has got to learn to punch it up in there."

Fisher said it's hard to tell Henry's progress because the D-line is so young. He is waiting to see what kind of back Henry can be with solid blocks to lead the way.

"I like (being a back) a little better, " Henry said. "I get to touch the ball more."

Henry's speed was most impressive. If a blocker opened a hole for him or he found one, he was gone in an instant.

"I am going to be working on everything, " Henry said. "I am going to start over again."

Though the scrimmage was largely unimpressive, Fisher told his team about the spring of the '94 season, when he told his team they would be lucky to win three or four games. Then that fall the Bulldogs went undefeated.

"We have to take our lumps a little bit, hopefully not too many of them, and learn from them, " Fisher said. "Up until today it was everybody doing everything together."