David Bankston takes over a program that has won two games in the past two seasons.
By BILL BLITMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
TAMPA -- With 26 years in football, David Bankston has learned to get right back up when he gets knocked down.
The new Bloomingdale coach will need that attitude. He takes over a program that has won one game in each of the past two seasons and has never had a winning season.
"(Our goals are) building team unity, building a tradition and having kids that are not just good at football, but are good in school," Bankston said. "I would rather not even win a game if I knew I had a bunch of good kids because that is what it is all about.
"People want to see the wins and losses, but I want to see the good character out of people. Just make them good kids and have people respect them. Now I would still like to see them knock the heck out of somebody."
Bankston knocked the heck out of people as a linebacker for the University of Tampa in 1970 and coached the Spartans in 1973 before going on active duty in the Army for 12 years.
During that time, he also coached for nine seasons in college, including at Union College and Tennessee Wesleyan.
Bankston said his experiences in football taught him how to deal with the challenges of everyday life, something he wants to instill in his team.
"Nothing is going to keep you down," he said. "Every day, you face that type of thing. It is how you react to adversity. Football is a great sport to face an adversity."
In an effort to get acquainted with the team and work on toughness, Bankston and the Bulls stayed together for three nights in the school gym and woke up at 5:30 a.m. for conditioning drills. In addition to getting the players in shape, it also was an effort to make leaders out of a team that lacked senior leadership. "You expect them to be able to come out there and take control and lead by example and stuff, but we have seniors who have been on for three years and won three or four games," he said.
"They really don't know what leadership is except for losing leadership. There are not many people who follow losers. We have to establish those seniors into a winning attitude and start building some tradition around here."
As much as Bankston would like to see immediate results on the field, he said he knows it will probably take a few years. However, he believes his players are 75 percent of the way to where he wants them to be.
"Maybe three or four years down the road, you'll have that (100 percent)," he said. "But there are going to be some mustangs you can break and some you can't break.
"The ones you can't break, you are going to have to let them go because it is just like a cancer. If it was a horse, you would be shooting them."
OFFENSE: Despite a lack of depth that will force linemen to play both ways, Bankston said the Bulls' Wing-T offense might be able to surprise a few teams. While the Bulls await an eligibility appeal for quarterback Devin Burney, Jarob Skaletski and Jon O'Steen are competing for the job. Skaletski played some last season, but a knee injury forced him to miss spring drills.
Bloomingdale also has talent in the backfield in Harold Marchman, who is as fast as any player Bankston has seen. "When you have that kind of a threat, people will have to respect you," Bankston said.
DEFENSE: The defense should be a stronger unit than opponents are accustomed to facing.
"We've got some good kids defensively," Bankston said. "We are not very big and are not very strong, so we are going to have to play smart football, quick football and aggressive football."
The linebackers should be a strength. Mike Lugo and Whitney Cobb return to anchor the group. Both players are about 6 feet 1, 185 pounds with good speed. "When you have that kind of size and speed at linebacker, you have a chance to shut some people down," Bankston said. A fast defensive backfield will undergo a new approach in hopes of not giving up big plays, which hurt the Bulls last year.
"They would be in a game, and then all of a sudden, there was a 60-yard touchdown pass," Bankston said. "We can't give up big plays; even if we have to play off of people and just let them move down the field and hope they make a mistake.
"We just can't give up the big play because it just kills the defense and the team morale when you are on the sidelines when something like that happens."
SPECIAL TEAMS: Lugo, an all-conference punter from a season ago, returns. Bankston said special teams play will be a key while the offense and defense develop. "If you are not very big and not very strong, you had better be really good on special teams," he said, "because that is where you get those cheap scores and field position and all those things that come with easy scores."
COACH: David Bankston, first season
ASSISTANTS: Corey Brinson, Chris Fisher, David Hutcherson, Nick Jiminez, Ed O'Steen, Ken Wilson
COLORS: Black, red and white
STADIUM: Charlie Harris Stadium, 1700 E Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico
CLASS: 6A, District 4
PLAYOFF HISTORY: None
NOV. 2, BRANDON: As big as this is for Brandon, it's that much bigger for Bloomingdale. The Eagles are holding all of the cards, courtesy of last year's large victory. The fact that it's at Brandon adds some intrigue to this always powerful rivalry.