By PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- All eyes are on No. 9 this fall at St. Petersburg Catholic.
More than 50 scholarship offers have streamed in for quarterback Chris Davis, the Barons' 5-foot-11, 175-pound highlight-waiting-to-happen. Davis' name graces just about every recruiting list in existence.
Davis jacked up the recruiting buzz last season when he completed 74 of 137 passes for 1,446 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also was the county's second-leading rusher with 1,396 yards and 16 touchdowns.
This season, he hopes to carry SPC, which was loaded with juniors last season, further ... if the Florida High School Activities Association allows it.
Earlier this month, the FHSAA placed the Barons on restrictive probation and ruled it ineligible for postseason play this season because of a recruiting violation.
The school will appeal Sept. 23. With powerhouse Jefferson recently bumped up to 4A, the Barons would be the district favorite.
Regardless, coach Dan Mancuso said he believes this is the best team in school history.
"The goal is to go 10-0 and hope things turn our way with the appeal," Mancuso said.
THROUGH THE AIR: While Davis' legs are his primary asset, he also is a capable passer.
Mancuso said the Barons will run variations of the spread offense, like those found at Clemson and Northwestern, and the West Coast offense. Among Davis' primary targets will be seniors Thao Kim and Chris Peters.
The offensive line is bigger this season. The starting five, anchored by senior center Chris Taylor, averages more than 250 pounds.
"Our 'Hogs' have been a good surprise," Mancuso said.
ON THE GROUND: Senior Sean Gantley and sophomore Deondrea Lindsey, whom Mancuso calls "the next Chris Davis," will be the primary ballcarriers. And Davis is a threat to take it all the way on every play.
DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE! Weakside linebacker Mike Ross isn't the biggest in the county (6-0, 180), but he's one of the best. He has scholarship offers from schools such as Purdue and Boston College and makes tackles all over the field.
The other outside linebacker, senior returning starter Jerrod Hannah, also makes loads of tackles. Hannah and Ross flank 5-5, 180-pound senior A.J. Bruce, who compensates for his size with great instincts, and 6-2, 225-pound sophomore Eliot Ramsberger.
The line is anchored by 5-10, 300-pound Steve Ashby and Largo transfer Alex Marek.
"(Marek) just wreaks havoc," Mancuso said.
Strong safety Matt McKenna, the lone freshman starter last season, is a fierce hitter who leads the secondary.
JUST FOR KICKS: Senior Brian McNally, who also plays defensive line and tight end, was one of the county's top punters last season. Senior Chris Waechter, who doubles at safety, is the kicker.
COACH: Dan Mancuso, seventh season (31-31)
ASSISTANTS: Shannon Brooks, Bob Damron, Willie Davis, Mark Hauzer, Jerry Lowe, Mike Lynch, Carlos Pinto
COLORS: Black and gold
STADIUM: Joe Paul Stadium, 6333 Ninth Ave. N, St. Petersburg
CLASS: 2A, District 7
ROUND OF 32: 1997 (3A), 1998 (3A), 1999 (2A)
ROUND OF 16: 2000 (2A)
QUARTERFINALS: 1977 (3A), 1991 (A)