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New IRC coach wants to raise morale


© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001

LARGO -- Chris Aelong was all set to start his law career.

He earned a degree from Masters College in Santa Clarita, Calif., and needed only to pass the bar to start his practice.

But Aelong decided the only practice he wanted to be involved with was football practice.

He never took the bar exam, moved to Florida and began coaching and teaching. He was an assistant at Northeast last season.

When the call went out for a head coach for the down-and-out program at Indian Rocks Christian, the church Aelong and his wife belonged to, he applied for and got the job.

"I was sent here for a reason," said Aelong, who also is the dean of students for the high school.

"It's funny how things work out. I also wanted to coach football. An advisor I had told me not to do it, but I knew I'd enjoy it."

It was not enjoyable last season for the 2-8 Eagles. There were only 17 varsity players, and they routinely lost by large margins. This season, there are close to 25 players; not a big number, but better than last season.

"I don't want them to go through what they went through last season," Aelong said. "Morale was very low when I got here. My whole focus is getting these kids to believe they can do it.

"They never gave up last season, and that was encouraging."

THROUGH THE AIR: Aelong made a promise to senior Warren Garrison. If Garrison could lose 40 pounds during the summer, he could play quarterback. Garrison held up his end of the bargain, and he will be the Eagles' starting quarterback.

Aelong said Garrison has a strong arm, but in the double wing formation, he might not need to throw much. In fact, Aelong hasn't found a wide receiver yet, so don't expect the Eagles to throw much.

ON THE GROUND: This is where Indian Rocks Christian will win or lose games. Senior Colt Martin will carry the load.

A starter last season, Aelong said Martin is a good open field runner. Senior Kevin Starner and sophomore Neil Ellsworth also will get some carries.

The offensive line is led by seniors Jeff Howard and John Cathey. Sophomore Tyler Tollefson might be the best prospect. Tollefson is 6 feet 4, 270 pounds and has good strength and quickness.

Jack Fulford and Grady Denton also will start on the line.

DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE! Justin Joslyn will anchor the defensive line at tackle. Martin and Garrison will start at linebacker. Donovan Rodriguez, a transfer from New Mexico, will play free safety.

Most of the offensive line also will play defense, including Tollefson, Howard and Cathey.

JUST FOR KICKS: Howard is the punter. Martin is the placekicker.


COACH: Chris Aelong, first season

ASSISTANTS: J.D. Banse, Brandon Hazzard, Mike Kachurik

COLORS: Blue, red and white

STADIUM: The Eagles Nest, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo

CLASS: A, District 8


ROUND OF 32: 1998 (2A)

ROUND OF 16: 1999 (A)

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