Despite playing in a tough district, coach Billy Turner says he enters 2001 confident.
By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001
TAMPA -- Chamberlain coach Billy Turner saw Lakeland up close in the playoffs. He watched Venice win the state championship. He studied the best Class 5A teams in Florida.
And he came to one, unmistakeable conclusion.
"I think we've got the quality of players to compete for the (state) championship," he said.
Chamberlain returns the bulk of the team that went 7-4 last year and put a scare into nationally ranked Lakeland before falling 10-0 in the first round of the playoffs. Now the Chiefs, perennial playoff participants in Turner's 21 seasons, have the look of state title contenders -- at least in the eyes of their coach.
"Everybody else in the county seems to be pointing the finger at us," Turner said. "We're the team to beat."
In Turner (137-93 in 21 seasons at Chamberlain and 187-120-1 overall), the Chiefs have the winningest coach in county history. Its defense is among the toughest around. And its offensive line shows potential.
If it can find an answer at quarterback and overcome inexperience on the offensive line, there's no telling how far Chamberlain can go.
Of course, the Chiefs' district opponents might have an opinion on the subject.
Chamberlain's district includes 2000 playoff qualifiers Hillsborough, King and Gaither, improved Wharton and Leto and newcomer Alonso.
"It's going to be tough to get out of our district," Turner said. "But if you win our district, I think you'll be one of the better 5A teams in Florida."
OFFENSE: Chamberlain has speed to burn.
Senior wide receiver Brian Clark runs the 100 meters in 10.8 seconds. During the past three seasons, he has improved from a "clumsy" ninth-grader, Turner said, to a college prospect who has received scholarship offers from a dozen schools.
Senior Sam Culberth can play quarterback or wide receiver. He filled in at quarterback for one game last season but should see most of his action at receiver, where he can take better advantage of his open-field running skills.
Third-year starter Greg Lee, a junior, also returns at receiver.
Senior Eddie Ivery, son of former Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lee Ivery, rushed for 700 yards in Chamberlain's two-back offense last season. If he played in an I-formation offense, Ivery could run for 2,000, Turner said.
Sophomore Donnie Davis joins Ivery in the backfield. Turner called Davis, who has 4.5 speed, "the best ninth-grade ballplayer I've ever seen."
Third-year starting tackle Toby Platts, who is nimble for a 6-foot-4, 350-pounder, anchors the offensive line.
Chamberlain's biggest question mark is at quarterback, where the Chiefs lost two-year starter Manny Hernandez to graduation.
Unless Culberth moves over from receiver, senior Mark Scalise or sophomore Sidney Bryant should start.
DEFENSE: Senior defensive tackle Broderick Bunkley leads a defensive unit that returns nine starters.
Bunkley is big (6-4, 260), strong (he bench presses 300 pounds) and fast and has an appetite for quarterbacks.
He had three sacks in the spring jamboree against Wharton and has been offered scholarships by a dozen major schools, including Miami and South Carolina.
"He plays at a high level of intensity, like a college player right now," Turner said.
Tackles Bunkley and Al Mack and nose guard Mike Torres form a defensive front that is "very, very good," Turner said.
All three bench press more than 300 pounds. Mack is 255 pounds and "can run like a deer," Turner said.
"If he plays four years of college football, he'll be a high draft pick in the NFL," the coach said.
Senior linebacker Ollie Hoyte, another blue chip prospect, received a scholarship offer from Virginia. Turner called Hoyte one of the hardest hitters he has ever seen.
Ivery, Lee and junior Sean Dixon, who intercepted eight passes as a sophomore, form the core of the secondary.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Junior Tim Frank and senior Jason Riverol are competing at placekicker.
They join junior Trey Seaholm in a three-way battle for the punting job.
Michael Ross, Davis and Culberth will return kicks.
COACH: Billy Turner, 22nd season (137-93, 187-120-1 in 30th season overall) ASSISTANTS: Hayward Bryant, Emanuel Burch, Ramon Favaro, Max Ferrara, Mel Friebaum, Billy Howell, Al McCray, Ed Owen, Chancy Scott, Norm Soash
COLORS: Green and gold
STADIUM: Chamberlain Field, 9401 North Blvd., Tampa
CLASS: 5A, District 6
PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2000
LAST APPEARANCE: Lost to Lakeland 10-0
OCT. 18, KING: This is the final game before Hillsborough comes to town, which means it's a must-win if the Chiefs hope to challenge for a district title. Surely, the Chiefs would feel better if they got to play at home. But the trip isn't too far, and it tends to make the game even bigger.