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Grown-up Wildcats face high expectations

Speed, talent, strength. Wesley Chapel has all the tools to contend for conference and district titles.

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001


Speed, talent, strength. Wesley Chapel has all the tools to contend for conference and district titles.

WESLEY CHAPEL -- John Castelamare doesn't want to hear it.

His Wildcats, the best team in Pasco County?

Wesley Chapel, conference champion?

Playoff-bound after just three years in existence?

Castelamare, ever so modest in his 30th year of coaching, doesn't want anything to do with such grand and lofty predictions.

But he will admit his Wildcats have the opportunity to be very, very good this season.

If they decide to be, that is.

"If they behave and work hard like they've been doing, we have a shot at being a good football team," he said. "But something can happen in one day that destroys this team, injuries, behavior, whatever.

"But right now, we feel we can play with all the people in the conference and district."

In fact, Castelamare believes the teams to beat are River Ridge in the Sunshine Athletic Conference and Hernando in Class 3A, District 7. But every conference and district foe is undoubtedly sizing up Wesley Chapel for two reasons.

First, the diapers are finally off. Two years ago, the Wildcats had to start underclassmen everywhere. Now comes the payoff, as nearly every starter from the past two seasons returns.

The second reason is talent. The team is loaded with speedy, athletic veterans at the skill positions.

The team's offensive star is 6-foot, 190-pound Tyrone Tomlin, who led the county in receiving last year but will now bring his speed and power to fullback where he will be the focus of the Wing-T.

He joins a backfield loaded with talent.

Kenny "Junior" Roberts is a two-year starter at wingback, and Chris Roberts, Greg Harrison and Marcus Stewart are battling it out at tailback.

Under center is another two-year starter, Spencer Honeycutt. Wesley Chapel won't be throwing deep with Honeycutt, but he is a mobile, elusive and heady playmaker who can throw on the run.

Marcus Felder backed up Tomlin last season, now the coaching staff expects big things from him as the starting wideout. Jason Boyette returns at tight end, and not just to block.

The team's only question mark is the offensive line, which has been Castelamare's special project. Justin Whortley returns at center, joined by right guard David Miller and left guard Jacob O'Reilly. Eddie Hilton will start at right tackle and Chris Nazworth is in the lead at left tackle.

Castelamare knows he can run outside if he wishes, but can his team run between the tackles?

"We're trying to control the game, not just make big plays," he said. "We made big plays last year and that helped us win, but we want to control games more, we want to control the line of scrimmage."

On defense, 2000 Times Pasco County Defensive Player of the Year Jason Boyd returns to nose guard. Last season he proved unblockable, leading his team with 87 tackles and the county with 11 sacks.

Defensive tackle Derrick Gentles has had an excellent preseason, Tim Davis and Seth Fabin will share time at the other tackle spot and ends Chase Polston and Boyette are standouts.

Graduation took away middle linebacker Matt Harden, the team's hardest hitter the past two seasons. But Randy Hickle is fitting in nicely there. Chris Roberts and James Owens line up at outside linebacker in the Wildcats' 5-3 defense.

Felder and Kenny Roberts are the corners, and Honeycutt the safety, sharing time with Tomlin. So the defense isn't lacking for athleticism.

Gilbert Montelongo gives Wesley Chapel the strongest leg in the county after the three-year starter transferred from Pasco in the spring.

But despite its talent, Wesley Chapel still has much to prove. The team has yet to beat Ridgewood, Land O'Lakes or Zephyrhills, contests that join Pasco as the team's grudge matches.

However, last season's 5-5 team was just a handful of plays away from a winning record, and Coach Cas grudgingly admits he has never had such team speed.

"Our strength is we're more mature now, no more little ninth graders," he said. "They're big enough, they're older and they have the experience."

AT A GLANCE

COLORS: Navy blue, light blue and white

CLASS: Class 3A, District 7

PLAYOFF HISTORY: None

HEAD COACH: John Castelamare (third season, 6-14; 14th season, 47-93 overall)

ASSISTANTS: Brian "Stone" Colding, Tom McHugh, Terry Henry, Tony Lister, Preston Stewart, George Whortley

DIRECTIONS WILDCAT STADIUM: From eastbound S.R. 54, turn left onto Curley Road and head north. Turn left onto Wells Road and pass Weightman Middle School on the right. From westbound S.R. 54, turn right and head north onto Curley Road, take a left at Wells Road.

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