By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
3A-7 ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Wesley Chapel (7-3); 2. Zephyrhills (6-4); 3. Pasco (5-5); 4. Gulf (3-7); 5. Hernando (2-8); 6. Hudson (0-10)
4A-6 ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Central (8-2); 2. Land O'Lakes (7-3); 3. River Ridge (6-4); T4. Springstead (5-5); T4. Mitchell (5-5); 6. Ridgewood (3-7)
PIVOTAL GAME: Springstead at Hernando, tomorrow. Springstead is supposed to be markedly better; Hernando perhaps markedly worse, considering the graduation of do-it-all Dee Brown. The long-suffering Eagles can (and need to) make a statement early and Week 1 is the time to do it, beating a team they have lost to three consecutive times in the first of three consecutive road games. Springstead especially needs the quick victory because Crystal River lurks in Week 2, and no matter how much they've improved, the Eagles are going behind the woodshed there.
BEST GAME: Crystal River at Central, Oct. 5.
The clash of two great systems, without the district pressure, but with all the hitting. Crystal River appears loaded with the core of its 10-2 team intact. Central has lost some serious talent -- namely defensive linemen/running backs Jerry Daniels and Lance Holland -- but the stubborn, disciplined, power-running games each team employs should make this one a trench war.
BIGGEST BLOWOUT: Hernando at Crystal River, Nov. 11.
The Pirates dominated Hernando 21-0 last year when the Leopards were the second-best team in the district. They're not anymore, so what happens this year? Crystal River will be tuning up for the postseason while the Leopards ... won't be.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Jere DeFoor, Crystal River.
Go 10-0 and you're the coach of the year.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tim Gaynor, Central.
Could the junior have a better name for a running back? Playing in a system in which three backs rushed for 650 or more yards, Gaynor was second among Bears with 710 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns on 109 carries.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Steve Cassell, Hernando.
After leading the Leopards with six sacks last season, the senior defensive end wants the school single-season tackles record (142, set by South Florida lineman Chris Daley in 1999) and he might just be talented enough to do it.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Will Bleakley, Crystal River.
Top-notch placekickers are valuable.
SEASON OUTLOOK: Hernando has been blessed the past three seasons, but now it might be cursed. Dee Brown did so many things and so many things well, the Leopards admittedly became accustomed to him saving their collective bacon. The Central Florida fullback even threw the 91-yard touchdown pass that in effect earned Hernando a playoff spot last fall.
Now the holdovers must learn to win for themselves and hope restructured offensive and defensive lines mesh quickly.
Central's conservative, disciplined system should make the loss of Daniels and Holland -- whom coach Steve Crognale would argue were equally as good as Brown last year -- easier to absorb.
The Bears returning their leading scorer and a 700-yard rusher (Gaynor) is either lucky or a product of the system, depending on your level of cynicism. Central generally plugs in parts and moves on, and if the new parts prove more adept at tackling than they did in the spring, Central could be expected to float to the top of a district full of Pasco County flotsam.
Springstead is dreadful no longer, and might have some fun this year. Unfortunately, the Eagles' schedule won't be producing any chuckles. After the Week 1 statement game against Hernando and the potentially brutal visit to Crystal River, the Eagles travel to traditionally tough, though Godfrey Pestana-less Land O'Lakes.
After a winnable fourth game against Lecanto, Springstead jaunts to Central and hosts Citrus before finishing the season with a run through the weak New Port Richey corridor, which includes first-year Mitchell, Ridgewood and Gulf.