By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
The Eagles had the most balanced offense in the county last year, accounting for 646 passing yards -- more than Central and Hernando combined. Gone is Jose Flores, who threw touchdowns in the Eagles' final two victories, but senior Everet Simmons, who threw 52 passes last season, is back. He'll compete with senior Brian Bolcar, who caught 11 passes from Simmons last year and looked solid in the spring jamboree.
The Eagles also return receiver Jeff Hill, who led the county with 21 catches for 341 yards last season, but also showed depth in the spring, getting nice catches from sophomore Brian Fleury and junior Gus Morales.
Springstead's offense starts with the run, though, and the workhorse last year was senior Justen Durr, who rushed for 734 yards and 7 touchdowns. Filling in at fullback will be junior Justin Melnik and senior Dan Raddish, with senior tailback Steve Garofano back as well. Freshman Joe Merando, just 5 feet 6 and 140 pounds, is on the varsity roster, and despite his small stature, has "real nice footwork and great instincts," according to coach Bill Vonada.
The Eagles line was decimated by injuries last fall, but the constant shuffling gave younger players valuable experience. Exactly who will fit where remains to be seen, but seniors Frank Bernardo and John Legner, junior Eric Larson and sophomores Broc Olejniczak, Joe Vitale, Charles Gonyea and Eric Bruscino are in the mix.
Anchoring the Eagles defensive line is 275-pound tackle Steve Brooks, who Vonada said has made big strides in becoming a steady force against the run and pass. "Last year, he would show flashes, but he's become much more consistent," Vonada said.
Jeff Hess, Legner and Gonyea will also see action inside. Eric Ryan and weightlifting standout David Fenty are in the mix at defensive end along with promising freshman John Hardy.
Springstead lost two standouts at linebacker in Flores and Shaunn Spivey, but Raddish returns in the middle and he'll be flanked by sophomore Kurt Carriveau and junior Allen Lamb, a transfer from California who has stepped in quickly.
The Eagles had an inexperienced secondary last season but will not have to worry about that this fall, with five seniors atop the depth chart at defensive back. Matt Abbene, Brady Nessler, Jon Jenkins, Kevin Szudarek and Garofano lead the way while junior Frank Conway, the tallest of the group at 6 feet, should also figure in at safety.
Sophomore Mike Hibbert will take over the kicking duties while Everet Simmons returns after handling the punting duties last season.