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Dragons set their expectations high

Jefferson has a lot of talent in its 18 returning starters and six transfers who started in 2000.

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


TAMPA -- Before Jefferson took the field for the first day of fall practice, coach Mike Simmonds wanted his players to know exactly what they were working for.

Addressing his team in the locker room, Simmonds held up a model of Doak Walker Stadium, site of this year's state final. He displayed the silver medal he earned as an assistant coach on Hillsborough's 1996 state runner-up squad.

He asked defensive coordinator Ricky Reynolds to show off the ring he received when New England lost to Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI.

Then, before his players grew too enamored of the silverware, Simmonds said, "We want to get the gold version."

With 18 starters back from a 10-2 team and the addition of six transfers who started elsewhere in 2000, Jefferson has the makings of a state championship contender. Not even an error in enrollment projections that forced the team to move up two classifications to 4A changed the team's expectations.

"The goals have been the same since (I arrived in) '98," Simmonds said. "The same goals I had on the board in '98 are the same as they are in 2001. We're just closer to those goals." OFFENSE: Jefferson has as many formations as returning starters. One of its most effective is the one-back set, which high school defenses rarely see.

For the formation to work, a team must be able to zone block, which allows its backs to cut back. Jefferson executed well enough last season for Robert Wax to rush for 1,500 yards.

Four starters from that line are playing in college, but Simmonds said he isn't concerned. Two of those linemen had never played football before last year, and their replacements are just as capable of learning the system.

Guard Jonathan Bailes, tackle Donnie Woods (a transfer from Pasco) and tight end Jamesley Jean received MVP recognition at this summer's Down and Dirty Lineman Camp. Center Derrick Warren, guard Jerry Williams and tackle Jermaine Lemmons complete the line.

Fullback Josh Balloon and halfback Rashaun Grant (a transfer from Blake) will see most of the action in Jefferson's I-formation backfield. Those two as well as Jeremy Burnett could run out of the one-back set. Quarterback Matt Glavich, who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in two years, returns to guide the offense.

"We feel he's greatly improved because he worked real hard in the off-season," Simmonds said. "His body changed a lot in regards to cutting some of his body fat. His strength increased, and his speed increased."

Glavich will have a bevy of receivers to throw to, including Andre Caldwell, the younger brother of Florida receiver Reche Caldwell. C.J. Janis-Smith, D.J. Mey and Robinson transfer Jeff Duncan give Glavich additional options.

DEFENSE: Jefferson returns nine players with starting experience, led by Burnett, who has started 35 games at cornerback. Grant, an outside linebacker, started last season at Blake.

Tackles Williams and Bailes, outside linebacker Lemmons, inside linebackers David Johnson and Balloon, cornerback Janis-Smith and safety Mike Allen-Taylor also return from a defense that allowed 73 points in 10 games -- fewest in the county -- in '99 and 85 in 2000.

Though new to the defense, nose guard Matt Luckey and outside linebacker Cedrick Maxwell show promise. Luckey started the spring game while Maxwell is the nephew of former Miami linebacker and Butkus Award finalist Maurice Crum.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Juan Matta tore an anterior cruciate ligament during soccer season.

But just when it seemed the Dragons would have to go for two after touchdowns, baseball coach Pop Cuesta suggested Simmonds look at baseball player Garrett Meyers, who now will kick. Jefferson received more good news when Nick Sakkis, who tore an ACL two years ago, was cleared to punt.

JEFFERSON DRAGONS AT A GLANCE

COACH: Mike Simmonds, third season (22-13)

ASSISTANTS: Kelly Benber, Eddie Edmonds, Mike Fenton, Bob Henriquez, David Lewis, Lane McLaughlin, Ricky Reynolds, Johnny Williams, Brian Woods

COLORS: Blue and gold

STADIUM: Dr. Sam Horton Stadium, 4401 W Cypress St., Tampa

CLASS: 2A, District 7

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1975, 1986, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000

LAST APPEARANCE: Beat Central 35-3, lost to Titusville Astronaut 16-10 (OT)

THE BIG GAME

NOV. 2, HILLSBOROUGH: This game will be talked about from the time preseason practice starts until two weeks after it's finished. Two of the most powerful teams in the county, if not the state, square off in one of the biggest stadiums around. Buy your tickets early. It will be packed.

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