East Bay (again) will run the wishbone and (again) rely on speed and size on defense.
By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
GIBSONTON -- For the past seven years, opponents knew East Bay's offensive game plan.
It won't be any different this year.
They will use the wishbone, running up the middle with a power play, off-tackle with a little finesse or around the ends with speed. Because most of the plays start the same way, defenses struggle to figure out what is happening.
"Option football isn't new, but it continues to work when the quarterback doesn't put the ball on the ground and the running backs follow the holes made by a quick, aggressive offensive line," East Bay coach Brian Thornton said.
"We were real young last year, still went 7-3 in the regular season and made the playoffs. We are still young but with experience."
The Indians will play in Class 5A, District 5 against some of the tougher teams in central Florida, including Lakeland and Haines City. The entire starting backfield returns, but only a couple of starting linemen are back. "Offensively, we should be very exciting this year," Thornton said. "We will have to do well quickly though because three of the first four teams we play this year (Chamberlain, Haines City and Riverview) made the playoffs last year.
"Even with that on the horizon, we have high hopes for this team. We feel our guys will always be competitive and have a shot at a playoff berth."
OFFENSE: Heading up the offense will be junior quarterback J.B. Garris. Although he was the backup for most of last year, he started some games and knows the system well. "Garris gets a quick start and is a smart player," Thornton said. "The good thing is he doesn't fumble, and that is very important with option football.
"He can also run himself and passes well when necessary. We will throw sometimes; if for nothing else to give our fans a thrill."
Chasio McDaniels, Billy McPhaul, Keith Smith and Reggie Doby are capable running backs. Anton McDuffie, a junior split end, will be the primary target for Garris' passes, but all of the running backs have good hands and will be targets. McDuffie also is the backup quarterback. The offensive line, led by senior guard Ryan Vanalstyne, is big and quick. Thornton said Vanalstyne should be one of the area's top college prospects. Clint Williams, Dennis White and Ben Wilhelm will help pack beef into the offensive line. Not only are they big, but they are quick enough to pull.
DEFENSE: Six starters are back from a unit Thornton said was one of East Bay's best ever.
Defensive backs Maurice Harris and C.J. Owens return and bring plenty of speed. Junior defensive end Josh Johnson returns with size and quickness to plug up his side against the run and pass. "Johnson is very quick and is rangy with long arms and good feet," Thornton said. "He gets to the ball fast by running people down."
Senior Eddie Mondello also is back at defensive tackle. He is surprisingly quick, Thornton said.
Back at linebacker are Jeremiah Shorter and Zach Costello. Both love to hit ballcarriers.
"I would describe our defenders as attackers," Thornton said. "They play real good together, get to the ball quickly and gang tackle quite a lot.
"There are some younger players battling to get into the starting lineup also, and several of them are really tough. They love to play contact football."
SPECIAL TEAMS: Senior Mike Johnson is back to kick, and Thornton said he has an accurate leg.
Doby, McPhaul, Smith, Garris and Jimmy Strong will return kicks.
COACH: Brian Thornton, eighth season (40-33)
ASSISTANTS: Mike Gottman, Bill Leiby, Lou Luce, Brett Oberzan, Terry Varvil
COLORS: Gray and red
STADIUM: E.G. Simmons Field, 7710 Big Bend Road, Gibsonton
CLASS: 5A, District 5
PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1973, 2000
LAST APPEARANCE: Lost to Seminole 18-6
OCT. 26, LAKELAND: Coach Brian Thornton likes them big, and they don't get any bigger than this. The Dreadnaughts are coming, and they're bringing a whole bunch of state titles and, more likely than not, a 63-game regular-season winning streak. On Sept. 23, 1994, Lakeland beat East Bay 75-0 in Gibsonton. Paybacks are fun ... if they work out.