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Lions not taking Titans lightly

Last season, Tampa Bay Tech's surprise 20-7 victory spoiled King's season. Tonight, King is ready for the rematch and to win the district title.

By SCOTT PURKS

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 2000


TAMPA -- The situation is exactly the same as it was last year for the King Lions.

They are 5-2 and preparing for a key Class 4A, District 8 game against Tampa Bay Tech.

Then again, it's a lot different.

"Last year, we thought we were just going to go in there against (TBT) and it was going to be an easy win," offensive lineman Armand Overstreet said. "We thought there isn't anything to this. Tech isn't anything."

Wrong. Tech ended up with a 20-7 victory, and King proceeded to end the season with three consecutive losses.

Perspective, Overstreet said, is everything.

"We're not taking Tech lightly by any means this time," he said. "We saw how they came to play last year, and we have respect for them now. We're going into this game with a lot of focus."

And apparently better preparation.

"Oh yes," Overstreet said. "We feel like we know our assignments better. We feel like we know what we have to do to win."

That's probably because one of the biggest differences from last year is head coach Joe Severino.

Severino took over for Eric Thurston last spring, and though players were a bit skeptical in the beginning about the new coach, they quickly started believing what Severino was preaching.

"We were saying, "Who is this new guy and what does he know?"' Overstreet said. "But then we had a team meeting, and he started telling us about his coaching experience (more than 15 years in the county, including a 9-1 record in the early 1990s as head coach at TBT).

"He told us about what he was going to do ,and when we walked out of that meeting, we were saying, "You know, maybe we can do something here. Maybe we can go out and have some success."'

Indeed, if the Lions win tonight, they will all but seal their first district crown in 17 years. And from the looks of it, even though TBT is a tough 4-3 squad that's also 2-0 in the district, there is no reason to believe the Lions can't pull it off.

Playing tough defense behind leaders like end Carl Armiger, nose guard Cliff Ellis, linebacker Ralph Wyche and safety Phillip Brooks, the Lions have all but shut down most offenses.

On offense, King is led by backs Oscar Folks, Javonta Lawson and freshman Raymond Neal, who last week led the way in a 41-7 victory over Sickles.

"Everything has come together so well," Severino said.

"Right from the start, everything came together. The kids have been real receptive to what we've been saying, and the attitude has been real good. These kids want to do well."

They also don't mind coming to the football field house anymore. Last season, King's football facilities basically were a shambles. The building was dirty, cluttered and had no hot water in the showers.

"Now everything is pretty nice," Severino said. "The kids actually like coming into their facilities. They're excited again. They're fired up, especially this week.

"Now hopefully we can go out (tonight) and get it down. Winning (tonight) will mean so much."

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