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Here we go again

The Chiefs think a big play on offense will win the game. The Terriers say it's about toughness.

By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 16, 2001


TAMPA -- One could ask for a drumroll, but the drums have been beating since last Friday when the announcer at Chamberlain's John Adcock Stadium reported to the boisterous crowd that Hillsborough defeated Lakeland 26-7 in its region quarterfinal. That announcement came a few minutes before Chamberlain finished its 31-9 drubbing of Melbourne, kicking off one of the most anticipated matchups since, well, since three weeks ago when these teams last met. That's right, here we go again. Hillsborough-Chamberlain, Round II.

During that game three weeks ago, Chamberlain found its coach drawing an obscure hook-and-lateral play on his hand with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter as the Chiefs drove for the tying field goal. The teams waded through four overtimes, Hillsborough missed two 27-yard field goals and Chamberlain escaped with a 26-23 win, its first against the Terriers since 1992.

"I don't know if we can take another one like the last one," Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said. "(Chamberlain coach Billy) Turner's 100 (years old) and I'm 98. I don't think our hearts can take another one like that."

The win clinched the district title for the Chiefs and forced Hillsborough to beat Jefferson the next week just to get into the playoffs. The Terriers followed that up with a victory against Lakeland last week to put themselves back in position to exact revenge on their biggest rival.

But not everything is the same.

Since that night, Oct. 26, Chamberlain has earned its first playoff win and Hillsborough has transformed itself into a wishbone offense, utilizing Ronnie McCullough, Arteis Brown and Elijah Dukes, three of the county's best running backs.

The former development broke Turner's 0-for-9 streak in playoff games, extended the Chiefs' winning streak to nine and gave Chamberlain some momentum.

The latter development turned a team teetering on not making the postseason for the first time since 1997 into a playoff wild card threatening to upset its way to a state title. Surprising only because Garcia implemented the switch during the final week of the regular season, heading into a must-win game against undefeated Jefferson.

"It just seemed liked we had been trying to keep a rotation between those three backs but we weren't getting the continuity," Garcia said. "It was a do-or-die situation going into Jefferson, so we decided to put all of our backs in the same backfield."

The result: wins against two opponents whose combined record was 17-1, no turnovers and one punt per game. The new scheme is designed to control the ball and the Terriers have responded, marching for a 95-yard, 11-minute drive against the Dreadnaughts.

"I feel like we came back from the dead," Garcia said. "They put the paddles on us and shocked us. Now we're back and we have a chance to win the Lotto."

The change would seem to present a problem for Chamberlain in that its defense must prepare for the Terriers' wishbone and familiarize itself with its tendencies. But Turner said he expects nothing different, that the game will come down to who can hold up in the middle the best.

Basically, it's going to be a showdown between Chamberlain's Mike Torres, Al Mack and Broderick Bunkley, with help from linebacker Ollie Hoyte, and Hillsborough's offensive line and blocking backs.

"It all boils down to the defensive line," Turner said. "If we're able to hold them to three yards instead of four, and if they're patient enough to keep going with it, which I think they are. It's the same guys they had last time, it's just a different format. They're not going to block any differently."

The winner, said Turner, will be the team that breaks the big play on offense.

That was the key last time as Chamberlain pulled off a 13-yard hook-and-lateral between Sam Culberth and Eddie Ivery followed by a 38-yard pass to Brian Clark on the next play. Those plays got the Chiefs close enough for Tim Frank to kick a 36-yard field goal to tie the game.

"They're going to run the ball and we're going to run and pass," Turner said. "Whoever gets the drive and gets the score is going to win. It's going to be hard to drive 60, 70, 80 yards against that team."

One thing almost everyone agrees on is the fact these teams could play for 48 minutes and it might not be enough.

Overtime is a distinct possibility, although four seems farfetched.

"I can see overtime," Turner said. "But not four. If that happens again, they should charge double admission. Shoot, I'd go out and start hawking tickets for that."

Added Garcia: "We're just going to see who wants to win the most, who is in the best shape, who is tougher. If they're tougher than us, then they'll win. If we're tougher than them, then we'll win."

KEYS TO VICTORY

CHAMBERLAIN

The Chiefs must stop the run. If their defensive line can hold up physically and keep Hillsborough's three backs to less than three yards per carry, Chamberlain should be all right. Forcing a fumble would be huge. Offensively, the Chiefs are going to have to make good on every possession. Due to Hillsborough's ball-control offense, Chamberlain won't get many chances. Look for Chamberlain to set up the run with Eddie Ivery and Donovan Davis before quarterback Sidney Bryant hits Brian Clark with a long pass.

HILLSBOROUGH

The Terriers' goal will be to hold on to the ball as much as possible. The offense is designed to allow the Terriers to keep their opponent's offense off the field by churning away three or four yards at a time. The lower scoring a game is, the better off Hillsborough is going to feel about its chances. Defensively, Hillsborough will have to slow the Chiefs' running game and keep the passing game in front of it. Like Chamberlain, the ability to force a turnover will prove to be big.

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