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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.
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Four without a score
Hillsborough's impressive defense has 4 shutouts this season - but the Terriers want more.
By JOHN C. COTEY, High Schools Columnist
Published October 11, 2007
TAMPA - As far as nicknames go, the Great Wall of China isn't a bad one.
That's what one county player called the Hillsborough defense after the Terriers shut out his team.
But Hillsborough defensive backs coach Preston Jackson may have torn down that wall with his own take Wednesday afternoon.
According to Jackson, his unit takes getting shutouts very seriously. Personally, almost.
He says the Terriers are so hungry for one each week, they can taste it.
And what exactly does a shutout taste like? Grass? Dirt? Sweat? Blood?
"Sweet ... like strawberries and cinnamon," Jackson said.
And there you have it - Friday night at Chelo Huerta Field, the high-flying Plant Panthers and the golden-armed Aaron Murray will attempt to do what only two teams have done this season:
Score on the Strawberries and Cinnamon Kids.
"That's why he's new-school and I'm old-school," said 13-year defensive coordinator Dean Eychner, the architect of the Terriers' stout unit.
Eychner prefers to explain the Terriers' great success this season in less culinary terms.
This unit, he says, is just simply a wonderful blend of speed, power and athleticism. The players stay focused, follow direction, rarely lose form, are fundamentally sound.
Fellow defensive coaches Steve Longfellow, the dean of the group, and Vernon Henderson have molded a defense that has a school-record four shutouts, including two straight.
If there are still a few doubters out there - and Eychner said the scuttlebutt is that his boys still don't produce enough of a pass rush to be considered great - they could be answered in the next two weeks when the Terriers run the gantlet with games against Plant, then Armwood.
The Terriers aren't exactly curled up in the fetal position thinking about the prospects of facing either, even if head coach Earl Garcia says Murray is better than Robert Marve, and practically begged to be quoted saying so, and the Hawks are nationally ranked.
"There's no better opportunity than this week and the next to find out where we are and where we go from here," Eychner said.
In the preseason, the defense was told it would have to carry the Terriers until an inexperienced, rebuilt offense jelled. Enthusiastically, it did, carrying the Terriers through the first few weeks. They just don't seem ready or willing to set the team back down.
"I love it," senior Moses McCray said. "It gets me hyped. It keeps the passion burning."
Like fellow Division I-A prospects Marc Thomas and Chuck Grace, McCray defines this defense - Garcia called it the quickest he has had - with his high energy and will to win.
So when he says he would hit his own mom if she lined up across from him, it's easy enough to believe him.
For a second, anyway.
"Probably not my mom," he said, reconsidering or probably considering she may read the paper.
McCray doesn't seem all that concerned with Plant. He said he hasn't even thought about Armwood, after which he will take an official recruiting visit to LSU, the No. 1 team in college football.
But he gives the defense an A-plus and says it is ready for the next team to come in and try to score.
And if that team can't, well, that would be just sweet.