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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
By IZZY GOULD, Times Staff Writer
Published August 14, 2007
The setting: A grass field near the corner of State Road 54 and Collier Parkway, wedged behind the elementary school, a church and Winn Dixie (yes, there's still one or two around).
The date: Monday, Aug. 13.
The time: 2 p.m.
The weather: Mostly cloudy and actually pretty comfortable, considering the temperature on the dashboard read 103 degrees.
The atmosphere: Smiles, smiles and more smiles. The entire team consists of 20 football players (18 were at this practice). More than half of these guys led the Wildcats to the 2006 state championship in six-man football. So I guess that means there's two state champions in football if you throw in Pasco's 1992 title.
The routine: Wildcats coach Mark Arbet runs practice with a minute-by-minute schedule. Practice begins at 8 a.m. and ends just before 3 p.m. Yes, there's plenty of breaks, with eight scheduled water breaks (at 8:35, 9:08, 9:30, 10:10, 10:40, 11:20, 1:55, 2:30). AATL does everything from calisthenics, to agility drills, to hitting the sled, to pass routes, to scrimmages. At the 1:58 walkthrough - they have a walkthrough to review what they learned from the 11:45 classroom instruction - they lined up 11 offensive players and seven on defense.
Preseason star: According to Arbet, no one has stood out because there hasn't been an opportunity to stand out. Okay, we'll take Arbet at his word. But if we had to pick one guy who stands out to us, it might be Daniel Kwitko, a senior two-way starter at linebacker and tight end. Kwitko caught the winning touchdown in the six-man football championship. So AATL has at least one tested champion.
Preseason surprise: Arbet said the biggest surprise has been getting the boys into the right mentality. Vacations preceding the start of preseason last week made it hard for some to get back into work mode. Arbet was much happier with this week's start.
Dreaded drill: Agility drills. For 15 minutes, kids contort their bodies and move nonstop, exhausting themselves to get stronger and quicker.
Three things we thought
1. Help wanted. The guys out for football are fired up and passionate. They can't wait to get on the field and begin establishing AATL as a bona fide varsity program. But the Wildcats need more Wildcats.
2. That said, their spirit is inspiring. This was late afternoon on a Monday in the second week of practice. No one seemed to drag or drop their heads. Spirit could go a long way.
3. Arbet has his hands full. As AATL's athletic director, he oversees the middle and high school athletic programs. He also is responsible for leading the football program, and he helps find venues for AATL to play.