By JOHN SCHWARB
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
PALM HARBOR -- The international baccalaureate program at Palm Harbor U. is grueling, and the junior year is crucial.
So crucial that a few Hurricanes believed balancing academics and athletics would be too difficult.
Coach Mike June received a shock at the start of camp when three starting linemen from the spring game announced they would not play. Two are embarking on their junior years in the magnet program. That, combined with some players who have returned after a year off, gives the Hurricanes a different look.
Like most teams, August is a month of optimism and fostering hopes of a playoff berth, and PHU is no different. Only its next playoff trip will be its first.
In a way, the Hurricanes have an extra month of training. The schedule starts with four tough games -- at St. Petersburg, home for Seminole and Clearwater Central Catholic and at Northeast -- and winning is not necessarily all-important.
Not until the Sept. 28 Clearwater game does PHU begin determining its post-season fate. Clearwater, Pinellas Park and East Lake are the foes in Class 5A, District 7, and all three games fall within the last six of the season.
"We feel confident that we can be competitive," June said. "The question is what will you have by then." So don't mind too much the players returning after sitting out a year. They still have time to get the rust out.
THROUGH THE AIR: D.J. Webb is the newcomer at quarterback and has improved during the summer by attending multiple camps. June said he already has commanded the respect of the huddle. Another D.J. (Pavlock) will be Webb's backup.
The receivers are solid, led by returning senior Charlie Fraser and Braulio Fulp. And June said he will not be afraid to use them.
"I like a mixture, wide open," June said. "All over the neighborhood. You'd better cover us because if you don't, we've got some checkoffs."
ON THE GROUND: When PHU does run, Akeem Mack could get the bulk of the work. The junior sat out last year due to grades but will try to compensate for the loss of James Brown, who turned in two 1,000-yard seasons.
The question mark is the line. The experienced group from last year graduated, and the three departures from the spring required evasive action. Enter Dain Hagen, Matt Huners and Steve Jorgenson, all sophomores called up from the junior varsity.
DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE! The sophomores also might fill in on defense. But overall, this is a strength. Mike Lube leads the way. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder will line up all over the field. Mike Amilio and Matt Battistini will start on the line. Jeff Grant and Danny Ligas, two more of those missing juniors, are the linebackers. The secondary could be particularly good with the returning Danny Gilbert and Greg Mandilk. Bobby Malina and Kevin Morris also will see time.
JUST FOR KICKS: Ace kicker Danny Shea graduated, and Mike Morzenti will look to take over.
COACH: Mike June, second season (3-7)
ASSISTANTS: Johnny Adkins, Tim Falls, Rob Jenkins, Frank Kovarick, Henry Lefebre, Dean Schaefer, Sam Vinson, Art Ziglar
COLORS: Burgundy, Navy blue and white
STADIUM: 1900 Omaha St, Palm Harbor
CLASS: 5A, District 7
PLAYOFF HISTORY: None