With 22 seniors and plenty of talent, Crystal River eyes its sixth consecutive conference and district titles.
By CAREY FREEMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
CRYSTAL RIVER -- It might not be as impressive as Florida State's nine consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference titles, but it's close.
Close by Citrus County standards, that is.
When Crystal River takes the field against South Sumter tomorrow, it will do so on the heels of one of the most impressive streaks in county history. The Pirates have won an unprecedented five consecutive district and conference titles. Perhaps even more impressive is their 22-1 record in district and conference play.
The obvious question is whether the Pirates can make it six in a row.
"I don't know about that," second-year coach Jere DeFoor said. "But we've had a good run and keeping that streak going and getting to six is a good goal for the kids.
"It's something we're really proud of, but this is a new year."
A new year, yes. But one with a lot of similarities to the past five.
Crystal River will field a strong nucleus of senior leadership. The Pirates return 22 seniors, including standout quarterback/safety Clayton Trenary, tight end/defensive end Will Bleakley, wingback Michael Jones, middle linebacker Sam Force and lineman Matt Hinman.
The Pirates seem to have all the pieces in place for a sixth consecutive title and a strong run into the playoffs, including the wing-T offense that has shredded opposing defenses. "I think we can win state," Trenary said.
"If there's any year we can do it, this is it. Most of the team has been playing together since Sharks (Pop Warner) and Mike Jones, Sam Force, Scott Miller, Will (Bleakley) and I have been playing together since flag football."
While talent has played a large role in Crystal River's success, so has tradition. The foundation was laid by former coach Earl Bramlett in the 1996 season and was successfully taken over by DeFoor -- Bramlett's long-time assistant -- last year.
The Pirates didn't miss a beat, posting their fourth perfect district record in five years and advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
"That's something we try to stress to the kids," DeFoor said. "The guys who left can't play this year. This group has to do that. They know how hard the kids in the past worked and they don't want to let them down."
Helping Crystal River's cause is the performance of its district foes. The Pirates are 5-0 against Citrus, Lecanto and Dunnellon, respectively, during that span.
Even North Marion -- a team ranked last year and one that should pose the biggest hurdle to title No. 6 -- lost in its only encounter with the Pirates, a 37-6 shellacking in the opening round of the 1996 playoffs.
CLASS: Class 3A, District
PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1988, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
HEAD COACH: Jere DeFoor (second year)
ASSISTANTS: Scott Thompson, Norris Lightsey, Billy Bass, Craig Frederick, Bob Croyle, Dick Tipton, Charles Brooks
DIRECTIONS PIRATE STADIUM: From the west, take U.S. 19 to S.R. 44 (W Gulf to Lake Highway) and turn north on NE 8th Ave. School is on the right. From the east, take U.S. 41 to S.R. 44. Follow it 20 miles to Crystal River and turn north on NE 8th Ave.