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Athletic stars fill Spongers' roster

By JOHN SCHWARB

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


TARPON SPRINGS -- Once again, Tarpon Springs' offense is akin to the chassis of an Italian sports car. It looks fast just standing still. It lives to run.

The 2001 engine, however, is young and must be broken in slowly. Too much hard work early can be damaging.

That is what the Spongers are looking at with rookie quarterback Anthony Houllis. He's the catalyst who will drive an all-star group of athletes. The junior's pedigree is unquestioned (cousin Achilleas threw for almost 3,500 yards and 45 touchdowns), but his skills are unproved.

Therefore, the Ferrari must idle for a while.

"We've got just as explosive athletes back that we had last year," said Spongers coach Don Davis, whose team finished 9-2 last year. "It's kind of like pulling back on the reins. Our receivers, they want to sprint. They want to throw it and go with it.

"We need to stay simple."

Simple could be plenty deadly enough. While Houllis might not be called to air it out or pull off any highlight-film plays early in the season, the talent around him can easily do it themselves.

It all could make for a very entertaining season in Class 4A, District 9, which looks to be an all-speed outfit with Countryside, Dixie Hollins, Dunedin, Lakewood and Largo.

"If you go by the rule of football logic, the team to beat is us because we're the district champions," Davis said. "But darn, this is an awfully balanced district."

It might not be once the car is fully tuned.

THROUGH THE AIR: Houllis is surrounded by capable receivers, starting with Eddie Green. The senior led the team last year with 15 catches for 448 yards. Roshawn Marshall also will be a go-to guy. The All-Suncoast pick grabbed just 11 balls, but four went for touchdowns and he averaged 29.5 yards per catch.

D.J. Robinson, a junior, will get his fair share as well.

ON THE GROUND: Tarpon graduated two fine backs last year, but depth was so good at the position that they might hardly be missed. Jeremy Saunders picked up 367 yards on 49 carries, and John Lajb grabbed tough yards at fullback. The backs will run behind a senior-laden line that Davis raves over. Center Phil Skandaliaris recovered from a broken ankle suffered in the spring game. He'll be flanked by Bo Arnold, Kelly McCarty, Trevor McGarvey, Kegan Roorda, Jeff Solomon and tight end Sam Banaee.

DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE! This should be the most improved part of the team. Davis was not enamored with last year's unit, but the offensive weapons made it moot. Many of the offensive linemen will go both ways, and opposing quarterbacks who throw into the secondary of Green, Houllis and Marshall likely will regret it.

JUST FOR KICKS: Solomon rose to the top during camp and likely will kick. Lajb will punt.

TARPON SPRINGS SPONGERS AT A GLANCE

COACH: Don Davis, ninth season (59-25)

ASSISTANTS: Mark Fessler, Matt Jergens, George Kotis

COLORS: Maroon and white

STADIUM: Sponger Stadium, 1411 S Gulf Road, Tarpon Springs

CLASS: 4A, District 9

PLAYOFF HISTORY

ROUND OF 32: 1993 (4A), 1995 (5A), 1997 (5A), 1999 (3A), 2000 (3A)

ROUND OF 16: 1976 (3A), 1980 (3A), 1984 (3A), 1989 (4A), 1991 (4A), 1994 (5A)

QUARTERFINALS: 1970 (A), 1972 (3A), 1975 (3A), 1985 (4A), 1990 (4A)

FINAL: 1986 (4A)

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