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Losing players might help Berkeley

Coach Frank Sullivan says this year's team has a much better attitude than last year's.

By ROD GIPSON

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


TAMPA -- The obvious fact is that Berkeley Prep lost 11 seniors from last season's team. The not-so-obvious fact is that replacing them might not be such a bad thing.

After a 3-1 start in 2000, Bucs coach Frank Sullivan had to deal with malcontents and a lack of work ethic. Coupled with injuries, Berkeley Prep endured a three-game losing streak midway through the season to end the year at .500 and winless in its district.

But, as Sullivan is quick to point out, "it was just a few kids that hurt us last year. And this year's group of seniors and the whole team are hard-working kids."

That group of seniors, along with experience on both sides of the ball, could make the Bucs a factor in Class 2A, District 7, which has seen its share of changes during the off-season.

Berkeley finished 0-4 in the district, which also featured Clearwater Central Catholic, St. Petersburg Catholic, Wesley Chapel and Tampa Catholic.

This year's version will be without Wesley Chapel (moved to 3A) and Jefferson, which was temporarily a member until enrollment problems jettisoned it to 4A.

"It's a changing district, and we'll have to play well every week," said Sullivan, 11-9 in his two seasons at Berkeley. "There's some strong teams in the district, but with all the changes, things are wide open."

Here's why.

With Wesley Chapel and Jefferson out, gone are a middle-of-the-road team and a very good team, respectively. Also, St. Petersburg Catholic has been placed on probation by the Florida High School Activities Association and will be ineligible for post-season play because of recruiting violations.

As a result, the district is a three-team race.

But Sullivan said the Bucs aren't taking anything for granted.

"We realize now that we have to keep working hard. We didn't do that last season," he said. "What's important for us now is to play with effort, energy and execute, and we'll be fine."

OFFENSE: Berkeley returns a core group of players to a unit that averaged more than three touchdowns a game last year.

Senior quarterback Vince Chillura is in his third season as starter and has plenty of experience around him.

Senior running back Jason Acosta has enjoyed the most playing time of the returning backs.

But along with senior Mike Gerson and juniors Gates Garcia and Nick Doresch, the Bucs have a group that averaged more than 5 yards a carry in 2000.

Tommy Kerr and do-it-all player Burton Tuttle will be the starting wideouts, and Patrick Norman, Christian Richardson and Matt Henderson return to anchor the line.

DEFENSE: Six-footers Eddie Muransky and Chris Zutes along with Kevin Sachs return to a defensive front that Sullivan said hit its stride late last year.

Linebackers Phil Welber and Jamie Keogh will see significant playing time. Kerr and Gerson will pull double duty, also playing in the secondary.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kerr will handle the kicking and punting duties.

BERKELEY PREP BUCCANEERS AT A GLANCE

COACH: Frank Sullivan, third season (11-9)

ASSISTANTS: George Berry, Ed Muransky, Fred Pisano, Derrick Scott, Tony Sorrell

COLORS: Columbia blue and white

STADIUM: Newman Stadium, 4811 Kelly Road, Tampa

CLASS: 2A, District 7

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1980, 1984, 1985

LAST APPEARANCE: Beat Frostproof 27-13, lost to Belle Glade Glades Day 7-0

THE BIG GAME

OCT. 19, ST. PETERSBURG CATHOLIC: Some of Berkeley's best games during the past few years have been against the Barons. This year is no different and might be bigger because it's the Bucs' final district game.

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