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Citrus predictions: Look out! Pirates could be even better

By Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001

3A-3 ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Crystal River (12-2), 2. North Marion (8-4), T3. Citrus (5-5), Dunnellon (6-4), Lecanto (4-6).

3A-3 ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Crystal River (12-2), 2. North Marion (8-4), T3. Citrus (5-5), Dunnellon (6-4), Lecanto (4-6).

PIVOTAL GAME: Lecanto at Citrus, Sept. 14.

The winner gets a leg up on a possible playoff spot. Citrus won last year by a wide margin (37-6), but this meeting figures to be much closer.

BEST GAME: North Marion at Crystal River, Oct. 19.

When these powers meet, both could be ranked and the district title might be on the line. If any program has the athletes to beat Crystal River, it's North Marion. Then again, if any team has the talent to beat North Marion, it's Crystal River. Basically, what I'm trying to say is this is one of those games you don't want to miss. In fact, I'll go one better and say there isn't a more intriguing game in 2001 than this one on the North Suncoast.

BIGGEST BLOWOUT: Crystal River at Ocala West Port, Oct. 12.

The Pirates return most of their team from 2000. Westport is playing its first year of varsity. Need I say more?

COACH OF THE YEAR: Just a hunch, but I'm going with Dick Slack at Lecanto.

The Panthers went 0-10 last year, but knocked off a quality Central team in the spring jamboree. If Lecanto can keep things together and survive a stretch of four consecutive road games, a .500 season is possible. I'm not sure this team is ready to compete with the likes of Crystal River and North Marion, but the Panthers figure to be one of the North Suncoast's most improved squads.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ryan McNally of Crystal River.

The junior running back played well last year and has all the tools to make Pirates faithful forget about the departed Nate Madison.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Clayton Trenary of Crystal River.

Trenary, a quarterback/safety, is good enough to be the area MVP on both sides of the ball, but because the Pirates don't pass much, the nod went to McNally on offense. Defensively, Trenary is a hard-hitting safety with few equals in these parts.

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Will Bleakley of Crystal River.

Bleakley, also a standout at tight end and defensive end, projects to be the county's top placekicker. Look for most of his kickoffs to reach the end zone, which should give the Crystal River defense a boost.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Same old, same old?

At the top, yes. Crystal River, might -- I repeat, might -- have its best squad ever. The Pirates return most of their key starters from last year's 10-2 team, which is pretty scary. With a little experience and a better kicking game (an injury kept Bleakley from kicking much last season), Crystal River has everything in place to win another district title and make a strong playoff showing. Trenary is one of the North Suncoast's top talents, but this team has other standouts as well. Bleakley, McNally, William Bunch, Sam Force and Matt Hinman are just a few all-area candidates who come to mind.

And don't forget about coaching. Entering his second year, Jere DeFoor proved in year No. 1 that the school acted wisely when it picked him to replace longtime boss Earl Bramlett.

At Citrus and Lecanto, few know what to expect.

Citrus had heavy losses to graduation from last year (including do-it-all quarterback Sam McLain), but is excited to return the services of two-way standouts Derek Cline, Charles Edward Staten and Justin Taylor -- a player Hurricanes coaches believe might be the most valuable in Citrus County. If a group of young skill players comes through, Citrus should be fine.

At Lecanto, expectations are high. That's right, high.

From last year's train wreck (see above) emerged a group hungry to win and even hungrier to produce the program's first winning season. Quarterback Phil Reed, who some think will be the area's most improved player, and standout linebacker Terence Hollis, are two players to keep an eye on. Both have game-breaking potential. If Lecanto can win a few games early, the Panthers could turn heads this fall.

So, is anybody ready for some football?

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