LARGO — Indian Rocks Christian graduates 15 players from its senior class, including nearly every skill player.
Quarterback Casey Woods, who threw 30 touchdowns last season, is gone.
So is Woods’ favorite target, Sean Culkin, who had 18 touchdown receptions.
“We lose pretty much everyone who handled the ball last season,” Golden Eagles coach Mark Buchanan said.
The leading candidate to replace Woods is Christian Frost, but he is coming back from a shoulder injury and is being held out for precautionary reasons. Matt Kulaga, a rising senior who decided to play football after a two-year absence, will start at quarterback in Friday’s game against St. Petersburg Catholic.
Ryan Ferguson, a starter in basketball, is playing football for the first time and Buchanan hopes to take advantage of his size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) in the passing game, much like IRC did with Culkin the past few years.
Culkin helped encourage Ferguson to come out for football.
“Ryan has the same kind of build as Sean,” Buchanan said. “Ryan decided to come out to give himself another option for college like Sean. We think he can be a pretty good player for us.”
Because the Golden Eagles still are green in the passing game, Buchanan will most likely stick to a simple game plan against the Barons.
“We’re going to be very vanilla for a while,” he said.
That means a steady dose of the ground game, which plays to IRC’s strength along the offensive line. The Golden Eagles return four starters up front: Jacob McBride, Chris Parish, Shacks Steward and Nick West.
Zeke McGoughy, who starred on the junior varsity squad as an eighth-grader last season, has moved up and will be the primary tailback. Kendall Brandenburg returns at fullback.
“We’re going to have to lean on our offensive line for while,” Buchanan said. “We’re really young this season with hardly any seniors. But this is one of the most passionate groups of kids that I’ve had here. Maybe that’s because they are so young. There’s a good learning curve here.”
Carrying the load
Not only does Palm Harbor University need to replace quarterback Billy Pavlock, but the Hurricanes also have to find some reliable ballcarriers with the graduation of Ryan Myers.
Halfway through spring practices, which included a controlled scrimmage Saturday, PHU coach Matt LePain said two players have emerged.
Rising junior Connor Dorris and rising senior Quentin Cummings will likely see their carries increase. LePain said he saw their potential on the practice field. His feelings were reinforced against Bradenton Bayshore.
“They did what we thought they would do and that is play well,” LePain said. “We’re going to use those guys on defense also. They stood out, along with our young offensive line.”
Canterbury cancels spring game
After having two opponents cancel, Canterbury will not play a spring game. Lakeside Christian decided not to field a football team because of a lack of players. The same happened to Seven Rivers Christian, which canceled last week.
The game was supposed to be Saturday, but athletic director Dave Smith was unable to find a replacement on short notice.
Todd Yoder, a former tight end for the Tampa Bay Bucs and Washington Redskins, has joined Calvary Christian’s staff as an assistant coach.
He is the latest former Buccaneer to coach at the high school level in the county, joining Mike Alstott (Northside Christian), Dave Moore (Shorecrest), Jerry Wunsch (Indian Rocks Christian) and Donnie Abraham (East Lake).
Photo: PHU's Quentin Cummings
Compiled by staff writers Rodney Page and Bob Putnam.