By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
The Bears rushed for more than 2,900 yards last season, and with an all-senior offensive line leading the way, Central's running game should remain the county's best. Fullbacks Jerry Daniels and Kashif McCormick graduated, but Tim Gaynor, Steve Martin, Jamie McElfresh and Shawn Dunker each averaged better than 5 yards a carry last season.
Former quarterback David Egan went all of last season without a touchdown pass, but he ran for four scores. His successor will likely be even more of a scrambler. Chase Evans and Todd Joa will battle for the starting nod, but expect to see both in the backfield at times.
"I thought that was one place where we did halfway decent (in the jamboree)," coach Steve Crognale said. "Chase is a little ahead of Todd. He looked more comfortable in the pocket. Todd has a strong arm and he's just as quick and agile as Chase is. Whichever one doesn't play there can play halfback for us."
Central's success on the ground limits the need for a passing game. Still, the Bears showed a few new targets this spring, including 6-foot-4 Mike Dye and 6-foot-2 Kyle Keene, who qualified for the state track meet in the triple jump as a freshman last year.
In order to give the starting offensive line more rest, Crognale will turn to younger players for Central's pass rush, including sophomore Wade Hampton and juniors Mike Gurske, Nick Marty and Chris Ortiz. Replacing Daniels and Lance Holland, who combined for 22 sacks, isn't an easy task for any defensive line.
"The whole thing might change," said Crognale, who's also hoping senior Jason Martinez can recover from a summer motorcycle accident to join the line. "We're definitely looking at younger kids."
The linebacking corps includes two transplants from other positions: Willie Winslett Jr. from the defensive line and Joa from the secondary. Gaynor and Joe Johnson will also be contributors in the middle. Evans and McElfresh return at defensive back, where the Bears will have two new starters. Six-footers Kyle Moore and Julian Jansen, both juniors, are the leading candidates at safety.
Next to a strong running game, stubborn defenses are a staple of Central's success. Last year's team didn't allow its first eight opponents to score more than 15 points in building a 7-1 record, but gave up 31, 33 and 35 points in its final three games -- losses to South Sumter, Crystal River and Tampa Jefferson.
The Bears return both kicking specialists, with McElfresh bringing two years of punting experience and junior Bobby Batista returning for his third year as placekicker.