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Ex-assistant returns to lead Raiders

With a high-powered offense, new coach Cornelius Bobo said he believes a playoff berth is within reach for Plant City.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001

PLANT CITY -- The road to happiness often takes a person back to a familiar place. Such is the journey of Cornelius Bobo, who returns to coach Plant City after leaving the school to become the defensive coordinator at Blake. Bobo originally joined the Raiders as a defensive line coach, when former coach Todd Long came to the school in 1994.

"What I was really impressed with was the tradition here," Bobo said. "I can honestly say these kids still love the game of football. It is still a community school. They have been building a program here. Now we just have to take it to the next step."

The next step, Bobo said, is to put the tools in place to make an eventual run toward a state championship.

"We want, just like every team in August, to be state champions," Bobo said. "But we realize that in order for that to be a realistic goal, there are little short-term goals.

"A short-term goal for us is to be successful in our district. With the system taking the top two teams, we feel confident that one of our goals is to be one of those top two teams."

With the other teams in the Raiders' district being Haines City, East Bay, Lakeland, Durant and Riverview, though, that will not be easy. OFFENSE: With a lot of weapons on offense, Bobo said the Raiders will attack and not let the opposing defenses dictate the tempo. "We don't want to be a one-dimensional team," he said. "Defenses are not going to dictate what we are going to do. When we want to run, we are going to run. When we want to throw, we are going to throw. That is our philosophy here."

Lawkeye Cooper will take the snaps and is a threat to throw and run the option.

"He is probably one of our leaders vocally and physically," Bobo said. "He bench presses 250 pounds. Not many quarterbacks in the state can do that."

Cooper will work behind an offensive line packed with seniors and a sophomore. "They are the backbone of the team," Bobo said.

"We are putting the pressure on them. If we are successful, it is going to be because of them."

The Raiders also are loaded at running back. William Brown and Joslan Shaw return, and Ryan Weems moves from wide receiver to tailback to give them a triple threat.

Robert Hallback, whom Bobo said could set school receiving records, is the top wideout. DEFENSE: The defensive-minded Bobo did not inherit a lot of depth. "I am used to the defense being ahead of the offense, but right now, our offense is ahead of our defense," Bobo said.

"And we know that offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. So with that said, we are going to have to grow up there real fast."

The defensive line features a few of the experienced Raiders playing both ways, something Bobo discourages.

"We do not want to do that," he said. "But our philosophy is to have the best 11 players on the field every time."

Linebacker also is thin, but Plant City should make that up in the secondary.

The Raiders have Leroy Lucas and Brody Perry returning.

Bobo said he expects both to be Division I prospects. SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking duties belong to Levi Kaaa, a former soccer player.

Although he has never played varsity football, Bobo said Kaaa is consistent from 35-40 yards.


COACH: Cornelius Bobo, first season

ASSISTANTS: Calvin Cowlings, Robert Earl Cowlings, Henry Foster, Ernest Holman, Doug Jones, Keith Kelly, Tim Knighten, Scott LaRue, Anthony Long, James McIntyre, Will Montgomery, Darrell Vickers, Tracy Weldon, Byron Williams

COLORS: Aqua, orange and white

STADIUM: Raider Stadium, One Raider Place, Plant City

CLASS: 5A, District 5

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1975, 1998, 1999

LAST APPEARANCE: Beat Venice 35-28, lost to Lakeland 58-6


SEPT. 28, DURANT: Raiders-Cougars. It doesn't get any bigger than that for the east Hillsborough schools. The Raiders won last year, but Durant, which relishes the chance to play Plant City any time, anywhere, will be looking to fix that.

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