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Youngsters hold key for Cougars

Several veterans will have to play both ways unless newer players can develop.

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


DURANT -- Graduation hit Durant hard. Only five starters on each side of the ball return, but coach David New said he is pleased with what he has. Many Cougars will have to pull double-duty until some of the younger players develop.

Ean Randolph and Trae Williams return to start at running back. Rudy Kirkpatrick and Bobby Sadler are the main players back on defense. All four are college prospects. "We have a lot of speed on both defense and offense this year, and we plan to take advantage of that," New said. "We want to bring along some of the newer guys as quickly as possible to relieve many of our experienced players from having to go both ways.

"Some of the younger guys seem to have some talent, so we will encourage and help them."

OFFENSE: Working out of the multiple Wing T is a way New hopes to provide junior quarterback Jared Walker time to read the defense. Walker played some last year but mostly was a backup.

"Walker knows his role and can be a real general on the field because he loves to play the position," New said. "He continues to improve with the running game, but he can throw when necessary.

"He is a good, quality high school quarterback. We will primarily run to open up the pass."

Randolph is an elusive runner with the ability to change directions quickly. Plus, he can break away and turn on the afterburners. New compares Randolph's running style to Barry Sanders. Williams is a straight-ahead runner with even more speed than Randolph. He holds Durant track records for the 100 and 220 yards. When going to the air, Williams and Rudy Kirkpatrick will be the main targets. Kirkpatrick is a big tight end who is hard to tackle. A pair of seniors, David Bailey and Craig Jameson, beef up the offensive line. Bailey already is being looked at by several Division I colleges.

DEFENSE: Sadler is the only returning starter from last year's line. The tackle will need to plug up the middle and help bring along some younger teammates.

Kirkpatrick heads a tough linebacking corps along with senior Derek Beaty. Both are hard-hitters and get to the ball quickly.

"Rudy and Derek are a pair of great playmakers from the outside," New said. "They are both solid hitters, and they both read well and can run. We have several new kids battling for the third spot. I know Rudy and Derek will help break him in once the right guy steps up."

The secondary has the most returning talent with seniors Bobby Moody and Brett Perez and junior Kerry Guy. Moody and Perez are on the corners, and Guy is at safety.

"We have a lot of speed in our secondary, and we can use Bobby, Brett and Kerry as receivers on the offense also. So I hope some of the younger guys come along quickly," New said.

"Basically, we have a solid group of defenders to start with, and we have a lot of confidence in them. They have a big job this year."

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Cougars were weak in special teams last year but are focusing on them more this year.

John Clarkson and Matt Sausaman will do the kicking.

"Last year, we lost two games because of weak special team," New said.

"This year, they are a high priority."

DURANT COUGARS AT A GLANCE

COACH: David New, third season (10-20)

ASSISTANTS: Floyd Graham, Chad Haschel, Paul Lindstrom, Dourest Robinson, Sean Washington, Jim Wilt

COLORS: Vegas gold and Navy blue

STADIUM: Ron Frost Stadium, 4748 Cougar Path, Plant City

CLASS: 5A, District 5

PLAYOFF HISTORY: None

THE BIG GAME

OCT. 26, RIVERVIEW: You don't think this is a big game? Look at last year's result. Last year, the Cougars scored more points in that game than they did in any other game all season and still lost. That won't sit too well out in the farther reaches of Hillsborough County. Oh yeah, did we mention this game has district implications as well?

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