By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 12, 2001
TAMPA -- This was Chamberlain's year.
This was the team that was supposed to lead coach Billy Turner, in his 22nd season at the school, to the promised land.
Rumors swirled in the preseason that the Chiefs were set to field their best team in years. They had running. They had defense. They had Broderick Bunkley, the man-child of a defensive lineman.
Look out, world. Here comes Chamberlain!
That was the preseason rally cry.
However, the first two weeks of the Chiefs' season have been nothing but nightmares.
The jolt was the 14-9 opening-week loss to East Bay, in which the Indians blocked two punts in the fourth quarter.
"I was disappointed with the East Bay game," Turner said.
Disappointment was compounded the next week when the Chiefs ended up on the wrong side of a 38-25 shootout with Riverview.
The galling part of that loss is the fact Chamberlain blew a 14-0 lead, allowing the Sharks to tie it before the half. The Chiefs scored their first two touchdowns in the second half on an 81-yard run on their first play from scrimmage and an 84-yard kickoff return.
That left the defense on the field to combat Riverview's potent running game for virtually 34 consecutive plays.
Chamberlain had a chance to win when it got the ball with 7:23 left in the game, trailing by one.
That's when Turner told his team, "Just run the ball."
"I didn't want to score until there was a minute left," Turner said. "I wasn't going to give them the ball back."
But quarterback Sidney Bryant ran for 14 yards, picking up another 15 on a a late hit penalty. Michael Ross then gained 16 on the next play and scored one play later from 17 yards out.
Offensively efficient, gaining 62 yards on three plays, but clock-wise, not what Turner was looking for.
Riverview got the ball with 4:11 to go. It scored the winning touchdown with 34 seconds remaining.
"I'd like to be 1-1 after the first two," Turner said. "I think we're a better team than our record shows. We can't play much better."
The good news for Turner is two-fold. First, neither game counted in the district standings. Chamberlain starts a stretch of four consecutive district games Friday against Gaither.
Second, the offense is clicking. Thirty-five points wins most games. Thirty-five points a week after Turner simplified the offense is encouraging.
"This is the kind of offense we want to play," Turner said after his team rushed 25 times for 322 yards. "I went back (before the Riverview game) and cut it down to three plays. That's all we ran. Three plays, and we scored 35 points."
The Chiefs benefit from having three quality running backs.
Eddie Ivery and Donnie Davis start and showed why Friday. Davis rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and Ivery gained 113 yards, adding another score, on nine carries before twisting his ankle in the second quarter.
Ross filled in, scoring a touchdown and gaining 70 yards on five carries.
It's that kind of attack that led to the preseason expectations.
"I'll tell you this," Riverview coach Alex Albert said. "I don't want to play those guys again. I want to run out of here. I don't want to play that game again in any other scenario."