The Cobras played better late in the year, and Terry Voyles says his players learned from that.
By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
HUDSON -- So how does a coach handle the lack of fast players, a lack of big players, heck, a lack of players overall as he heads into a season that promises to be an uphill struggle?
"We're going to Disney World," Hudson coach Terry Voyles says.
And he means it. This year, Hudson will take on Northgate High from California at the Disney Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista. It will probably have to serve as a substitute for a big playoff game and a winning season, something Hudson hasn't had since 1979.
But it will do. Voyles is a realist. Looking up and down his roster he sees a young, enthusiastic group he thinks can finish in the middle of the county pack. If not, there's always the trip to Orlando.
Call it a reward for everyone involved with last year's team, which endured a rash of key injuries -- including a catastrophic, non-football related one to starting quarterback Robby Mahler -- to key players en route to a 1-9 season.
After beating Gulf in the opener with Mahler, Hudson proceeded to score 17 points its next six games without him.
Ever the optimist, Voyles points out that despite the frustration of the injuries, which he stopgapped by calling up a host of junior varsity players, the Cobras weren't so bad down the stretch as they nearly beat Ridgewood (26-14) and Pasco (37-29).
That experience should benefit the younger players. Instead of making their varsity debuts, they are now seasoned vets.
Despite the recent struggles, Voyles looks in only one direction -- up.
"We got our workout program going last summer and had 18 kids in there, which was up from 10 the year before," he said. "Next year, if we can get it up to 20, who knows? We have eight kids playing college football. We have done some good things.
"Do I miss winning? Yes. It kills me. Every program I have coached at has won. But am I frustrated? No. My kids are great kids."
Mahler will be replaced this year by Rob Petrucci. A strong-armed and heady quarterback, Petrucci hasn't played since his sophomore season, and he was a defensive back then (and a good one, with seven interceptions, Voyles said).
Petrucci won't have Daniel Barton to throw to, and that's a problem. Senior David Leduc has great hands, but lacks the speed to get deep, and senior Curtis Bachellor is a converted tight end. Starting wingback Dale Lemons could also play the wideout spot in Voyles' Fling-T offense, which might be lacking some of the fling this year.
"It's a shame, too, because we probably have a quarterback that can deliver the ball," Voyles said. "But I'm going to give (the receivers) the opportunity."
When Hudson does fling the ball, the best option might be its talented tight ends -- returning juniors Jesse Jordan and Rayan Jones, who was originally going to move to tackle until coaches saw how well he caught the ball.
At fullback, junior Kenny Eva returns as the starter. One of the players who benefitted from the injuries to starters last year, Eva is a hard-nosed runner who managed 398 yards. Lemons had 203 and is an experienced wingback.
On the line, Voyles is happy with senior offensive tackle Walter Truzak and linemates Mike Meares (junior), Jimmy Schumaker (sophomore), Brian Vacura (junior) and Larry Barabas (junior) and senior center Ivan Henderson. Vacura and Barabas, the tackles, both weigh 285 pounds, but the rest average out to 200 pounds.
"We don't have a lot of height but we have a little more size and are a lot stronger," Voyles said. "I think we're going to be strong, just not fast."
And tired. As usual, Voyles will have to rely on his players going both ways, so look for the fullbacks to play linebacker, the blockers to play defensive line, Petrucci and the receivers to play in the secondary.
As for Voyles, he'll be the one with his fingers crossed.
CLASS: Class 3A, District
PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1979
LAST APPEARANCE: Lost to Oviedo 12-7
HEAD COACH: Terry Voyles (5-15, third season)
ASSISTANTS: Ray Lista, Mark Kantor, Terry Graham, Jack Ledbetter, Paul Carter, David Richtberg, Tim Stratton
DIRECTIONS COBRA STADIUM: 14410 Cobra Way, Hudson. From the west, take U.S. 19 to S.R. 52, turn east. Travel 6 miles to Hicks Road and turn north, travel 2.5 miles to Hudson Avenue and turn east. Cobra Way is ahead on the left. From the east, take U.S. 41 or Interstate 75 to S.R. 52, turn west and travel 8 to 13 miles to Hicks Road and follow above directions.