It was clear from new Palm Harbor University coach Matt Lepain’s first controlled scrimmage that the two staples for the Hurricanes will be a strong running game and a stifling defense.
“This is a decidedly different Palm Harbor team, especially on offense,” Lepain said. “We’re running the ball more than half of the time right now.”
That should be expected from Lepain, who was a defensive coordinator at Largo before being hired by the Hurricanes.
The biggest benefactor of PHU switching from a spread-option attack to a more ground-based approach is Kenny Blanch. The running back, a rising senior, drew praise for his performance in last week’s scrimmage.
The defense also did well, forcing two turnovers and making three stops. Tommy Hart, a lineman who will play more on defense this season, stood out.
“All in all, I was pleased,” Lepain said. “We went through the fundamentals and we hustled. But we still have a long way to go.”
Keswick Christian’s Jayln Coleman is a speedy back who was a state qualifier in the 100 meters. But the main concern for the Crusaders is not whether Coleman can outrun defenders but if he can stay in one piece once he is corralled.
Last season, Coleman, who weighs 150 pounds, missed three games and didn’t play in the second half of two others because of a variety of minor injuries.
“We have to keep Jayln healthy,” coach Rick Sanson said.
Coleman will still be used primarily as a running back but will be moved around some to take advantage of his athleticism.
The Crusaders have some weapons on offense with quarterback Taylor Angell returning. But they need to find a replacement for receiver Armani Lonardo, who is graduating. The top candidate is Alex Powell, who played opposite Lonardo last season.
Shorecrest two-sport athletes Jake Brandenburg and Will Schiff were back at football practice Monday after missing the past two weeks during the Chargers’ run in the Class 2A baseball postseason.
Brandenburg is a wide receiver and defensive back. Schiff is a linebacker and will be used as an offensive lineman in Thursday’s spring game at Bradenton Christian.
Shorecrest coach Phil Hayford said quarterback Dakota Hirsch, who injured his knee in the seventh game last season, will be held out of Thursday’s game. Sam Grant, an eighth-grader, will be the starting quarterback.
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