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CLEARWATER — For Countryside quarterback Christian Strong, there were so many things to get used to playing this American version of football.
The past three years, Strong played high school in Canada, which offers a fast-paced game with footballs flying through the air so frequently that one could suffer a cramped neck keeping track.
It is a game played on a longer and wider field than in America and a game played with rules designed to increase scoring.
It’s also a game that is heavenly for quarterbacks.
Now it’s different. There are tighter throws. Receivers no longer have running starts before the snap. And defensive players are faster — much faster.
Strong would not have it any other way.
“This is what everyone wants, a chance to play high school football in this country, especially in the South,” Strong said. “You can’t beat the weather and the talent. There are so many good players down here.”
Strong grew up in Clearwater before moving to Canada four years ago. He moved back to the area this spring. If Strong can live up to potential, he can fill the void at quarterback for the Cougars, who lost Gray Crow to graduation.
“It’s some big shoes to fill,” Strong said of possibly replacing Crow.
Strong is battling Jack Barr and Robby Hicks, who were both on junior varsity last season, for the starting spot. Strong will be able to practice and play in next week’s scrimmage. But he will not play in the spring game because he transferred during the semester.
“Right now, the big thing for me is picking up the offense and developing chemistry with my receivers,” Strong said. “I study the playbook about an hour every night just to get everything down. There is a lot to get used to. But I’ll be okay.”
Green Devils green at quarterback
St. Petersburg has a few holes to fill as spring practices begin, none bigger than at quarterback. Starter Keegan Oberholzer graduated, so juniors Corey D’Angelo and Rob Tribolet will try to impress coaches. D’Angelo is a converted running back, while Tribolet transferred from Canterbury after his freshman year and played on the St. Petersburg JV last season.
“Corey is one of those athletes you can plug in just about anywhere,” coach Joe Fabrizio said. “Rob is a big, strong kid, about 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. It’s just a matter of getting him reps. There’s going to be some competition there.”
Whomever wins out will not have the luxury of handing the ball to David Jones, the Green Devils’ all-everything back who will graduate.
But junior Maurice Hemingway is set to take over. And if D’Angelo doesn’t start under center, he’ll also run the ball.
“(Hemingway) is like the Eveready battery, he’s always around the ball,” Fabrizio said. “He absolutely loves to play football. Will he be like David Jones? I’m not sure he’s that versatile. But he’s more vocal and really loves contact.”
Eagles running by committee
Last season, East Lake knew exactly who was getting the bulk of the carries. Tyler Lane was the workhorse with 1,518 yards, including more than 100 in seven of his final eight games.
But Lane has graduated. So the process of replacing him begins this spring. Eagles coach Bob Hudson said he use will use a multitude of backs instead of relying on one featured guy.
Weston Fordham was one of the candidates, but he will miss three to four weeks with a knee injury. Jacob Miller, Lane’s backup last season, is the top returning carrier. Hudson also is toying with the idea of giving Devin Abraham and Artavis Scott some carries.
Adams on watch list
Lakewood senior wide receiver Rodney Adams has been nominated to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl after a sterling junior season. That means bowl representatives will keep an eye on Adams during the fall before making a final roster decision at the end of the season. The game will air live on NBC Jan. 5.
Speaking of Adams
Expect to see the ball in his hands more often this fall. Lakewood coach Cory Moore said the Spartans will not only throw to Adams, but he’ll run the ball as well.
“He’s going to be all over the place,” Moore said. “Every series he’s going to be somewhere else. He may even punt the ball. I want to put the defense in a situation where they don’t know where he is. If the defense is guessing where he is, then the other 10 can hurt you.”
Two of Countryside’s top prospects, tight end A.J. Sattinger and defensive lineman Mike Love, each picked up offers Tuesday. Sattinger was offered by Western Michigan and Love by Minnesota. Coach Jared Davis expects more this week.
Meanwhile, East Lake had schools such as Florida Atlantic, Minnesota, Michigan and USF visit the campus. None came through with offers, but Hudson said that should change when East Lake plays Bradenton Manatee in a scrimmage May 12. More than 40 colleges are expected to attend.
Learning from the best
Moore is taking a slightly different approach to spring practices. He has tweaked some of the drills, especially how the team warms up, after observing Plant coach Robert Weiner’s practices.
“You find out what guys are doing who are successful and you copy what they’re doing,” Moore said. “I talk to Coach Weiner a lot, and why wouldn’t you learn from the things they do? I watched the way Manatee warms up, the way St. Thomas Aquinas runs certain plays. I’m always trying to learn.”
Moore is also using a drill sergeant on his coaching staff. Roosevelt Kimble is stationed at MacDill and will be helping out in the spring and fall.
“I’ll be handling the discipline part of it,” said Kimble, a childhood friend of Moore’s. “The only difference between here and (the Air Force) is that here they carry footballs and there they carry guns.”
Rodney Page and Bob Putnam, Times staff writers