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Dunnellon pins hopes on offensive line

Replacing three starters in the trenches is key if the Tigers are to overcome Crystal River and North Marion.

By CAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001


Replacing three starters in the trenches is key if the Tigers are to overcome Crystal River and North Marion.

DUNNELLON -- Dunnellon's games against its Citrus County rivals meant little more than bragging rights the past two seasons.

Not so in 2001.

After two years of competing against Class 2A competition, Dunnellon is back in 3A and in a district with some of its neighborhood rivals.

This presents a welcomed change for the Tigers, whose previous district spanned nearly the width of the state.

But the travel was worth it since the Tigers made the playoffs in 1999 and just missed out in a tiebreaker last year.

This season, Dunnellon's expectations remain just as high even though some tough questions must be answered.

The first is figuring out a way to overcome defending district champion Crystal River and talented North Marion. The second is finding replacements for seven graduated offensive starters, including its quarterback, running back and three offensive linemen.

"I think we have some good kids coming in," said coach Perry Brown, who ended a 15-year playoff drought 1999. "But we also lost a good group of linemen."

The line is easily Brown's biggest concern. Though guard William Tidwell and tackle Steven Mack return, inexperience reigns at the remaining three positions and at tight end -- which is basically a sixth lineman in Brown's "fling-T" offense.

Junior Kent Jensen and senior Keith Smith will take over the weakside guard and tackle spots with senior Henry Cannon (6 feet 1, 300 pounds) -- injured for most of last season -- taking over at center.

"Most of them got to play some last year," Brown said.

"They also got to practice against the people we had and we had an excellent line last year. I think going out and practicing with those guys every day will help them step it up a level."

If they do, Dunnellon has plenty of experienced running backs to take advantage.

Though none possess the speed and moves of departed T.J. Watts, Dunnellon's backfield is deep and smart.

"We don't have a whole lot of speed," Brown said. "They're shifty, but we're not going to have the breakaways. We're going to have to have long drives and not make mistakes."

AT A GLANCE

COLORS: Black and red

CLASS: Class 3A, District 3

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1978, 1979, 1981, 1985, 1999

LAST APPEARANCE: Lost to South Sumter 21-0

HEAD COACH: Perry Brown (fifth year)

ASSISTANTS: Tommy Williams, James Corne, Mike Styles, Kevin Fagan, John Kokas, Archie Smith, Mike Graham, George Miller

DIRECTIONS TIGERS STADIUM: On campus, 10055 SW 180th Ave. Road. Follow U.S. 41 north over the river. Turn right on C.R. 484, the first light after the river. Turn left on SW 180th Ave. Road. Stadium is 1 mile on the right.

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