By PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Last year, he was deemed so frail that Lakewood coach Brian Bruch kept him on the junior varsity team for the entire season.
However, junior Pat Carter could be as important as any Spartan this season.
Why? Because Carter's blossoming quarterbacking skills will give Lakewood the balanced attack it lacked last season, when a 1-5 start crippled playoff aspirations.
"Teams just stacked the line against us. We made it easy for them," said Bruch, whose team averaged 68 yards passing a game.
"We had two Division I running backs (Darren Felder signed with Pittsburgh and Marcello Church with Florida State), and we still didn't have a good offense. I got fooled."
After sprouting a couple of inches and adding about 25 pounds, Carter (6 feet 2, 175 pounds) looked very good against Northeast in the spring. Then he spent the summer working out at Auburn, where his brother, Tim, is a standout wide receiver.
With a balanced, potent attack, Lakewood could look a lot like it did in 1999, when star quarterback Donnie Davis led the Spartans to a district title.
"I think we'll be over .500," Bruch said. "That's about as much as I can tell right now."
The six-team district has been tweaked and appears tougher. Gibbs and Osceola are out. Countryside and Largo -- both playoff teams last year -- are in.
It looks like a five-team race for two playoff berths, and the Spartans are in the hunt.
THROUGH THE AIR: Last season's putrid attack is a thing of the past. Carter was so good in the spring that despite having no varsity experience, his name has cropped up on lists of top junior quarterbacks in Florida.
He will have several quality targets, led by 6-3 senior Shannon Stewart and junior playmaker Ricardo Jones. And the protection also should be good with tackles Mike Hall, a junior, and Nate Tindall, a senior.
Both are big (Hall is 6-3, 220 pounds, Tindall is 6-4, 225) and started the second half of last season. Bruch said Hall is among the finest offensive linemen he has ever coached.
ON THE GROUND: Last year's quarterback, Darrien Copeland, has moved to fullback, where he should flourish. He and junior halfback Marcus Anderson will comprise one of the top backfields in the county.
If the interior line, the only offensive question mark, comes through, Lakewood could have the county's most productive attack.
DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE! Junior tackle Roshard Davis has bulked up to 230 pounds on his 6-2 frame and is developing into a menace. At end, 6-5, 220-pound senior Jarod Cleveland will factor into opponent's game plans.
Undersized senior Stefan Granger (6-0, 190) and classmate Matron Church (6-2, 210) form a fabulous combination at linebacker.
Granger, who Bruch said is the county's best linebacker, was named first-team All-Pinellas by the Times last season, and Church has a nose for the ball and a nasty streak. The secondary is deep with Jones, Stewart, Mike Henry and Curran Kelsey in the mix.
JUST FOR KICKS: Stewart is the punter, and senior Mladen Basevic is the kicker.
COACH: Brian Bruch, eighth season (33-39)
ASSISTANTS: Todd Creneti, Jim Hall, Carl Jones, Jason McDowell, Mike McGee, Cedric Taylor
COLORS: Black and gold
STADIUM: Lakewood Stadium, 1400 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg
CLASS: 4A, District 9
ROUND OF 32: 1993 (3A), 1994 (4A), 1998 (5A), 1999 (3A)
ROUND OF 16: 1980 (4A), 1981 (3A), 1982 (3A), 1988 (4A)