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Defense a dominating theme so far

It was widely assumed fans would be pulling neck muscles watching all the scoring plays in Pinellas County this season. After all, plenty of teams installed variations of the spread offense, the pass-happy system that thrives on speed and mismatches and is supposed to produce a ton of touchdowns.

So far, teams have not piled on the points because defenses have doused the fireworks.

Only four teams — Dixie Hollins, Indian Rocks Christian and Tarpon Springs — scored more than 20 points last week. Three teams were shut out.

In fact, defenses seemingly scored as much as the offenses. The Rebels' Gerard Atkins returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown. Dunedin's Ali Cheaib scored on a 35-yard fumble return. Lakewood and Countryside each recorded safeties.

Why are offenses playing catchup so early in the season? Here are a few reasons.

Young quarterbacks

Managing a young quarterback can be a balancing act. Very quickly, a coach must ascertain his passer's strengths and weaknesses, then formulate a game plan that isn't so complex as to overload his student yet have enough variety to keep opponents off guard.

It's a seesaw experience, and it takes time for a coach and quarterback to get in sync.

Most programs have not developed that yet. Of the 25 public and private school teams in the county, only four (Calvary Christian, Palm Harbor University, Shorecrest, Tarpon Springs) return quarterbacks who were full-time starters last year.

The Spongers' Danny Reyes, a three-year starter, had the most success in Week 1 with 359 yards passing and three touchdowns against PHU.

Depth on defense

The top teams in the county still are strong because they return the majority of their starters on defense. Largo has seven starters back. So does Dunedin. Gibbs is even better with eight returning, the same number as St. Petersburg.

All four teams won their openers last week.

Defense a dominating theme so far 09/11/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 12, 2008 1:58pm]

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