Heading into his third season at the helm, one thing Mike Einspahr has taken away from his experience as coach is quality is more important than quantity. • His first spring in 2010, the 72 players who were on the practice field for Central more than doubled the amount former coach Cliff Lohrey saw the previous year. • In the end, that advantage helped the Bears to exactly two victories the following fall.
Each season since, the number of players who have come out for spring practice has dropped slightly, but this season’s dramatic drop has more to do with Einspahr’s different outlook.
“This is the first time we’re more interested in developing players instead of plugging in seniors to play right away,” he said. “The word I would use to describe the kids we have out right now is dedicated, and that’s what I think will help us in the long run.”
The current number of players is 45, led by a solid number of returners at key positions such as quarterback (Cole Teater), wide receiver (Walker Sheppard) and linebacker (Chris Hernandez).
The best indication of what’s to come is Central’s potential offensive line. According to Einspahr, the team will not start a senior.
The Bears travel to Tavares on Friday for their spring game.
Gulf looking for gains
With hard workers like Travis Thomas, Avery Welch, Jason Rayburn, Morgan Smith and Keshaun Peters, first-year Gulf coach Jason Messamore thinks his team has a good start. He just needs more players.
The Bucs have had about 30 players at practices after a winless 2012 season, and Messamore is counting on a good showing in next week’s spring game against Weeki Wachee to boost interest at the school.
“For other places, they want to go to spring and get a bunch of looks, get kids on film,” said Messamore, a former CCC and East Lake assistant. “We want that, as well. But at the same time, we want to have some success. I think if we have some sort of success during the spring game hopefully a handful more kids will come out and play.”
Weeki Wachee had a strong showing in its first all-varsity season, beating in-county rival Central, earning a district victory at Interlachen and drubbing Jacksonville’s Duval Charter for three victories.
The next steps for the Hornets are to create more buzz and boost the commitment level.
“We want to create excitement,” coach Mark Lee said.
Weeki Wachee has ramped up its offensive tempo with lightning-quick practices and plays. That lets the Hornets take advantage of a strong group of skill players, including athletes Marcus Allen (580 passing yards, 551 rushing yards) and Jonathan King (seven TD catches) — a core Lee wishes he had when he was in high school.
“I wouldn’t have to worry about going to a D-III school,” Lee said.
By the numbers
Pasco ATH Brandon Ray, a kicker who could see time at defense and share snaps at running back or receiver
168 Receiving yards from the slot
93 Total points scored
60 Extra points made
55 Longest punt of the season
28 Tackles in the secondary
10 Punts downed inside the 20 (in 17 attempts)
5 Field goals made
3 Touchdowns scored
Weeki Wachee offensive lineman Marcus Applefield is up to a dozen scholarship offers, after West Virginia offered the 6-7, 275-pound senior Wednesday morning.
“We don’t have their names taped on their helmets. Last year we didn’t even know their names.” — Ridgewood second-year coach Jay Fulmer, who was hired shortly before spring practice began last May
Photo: Central's Cole Teater
Staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.