Buoyed by an encouraging spring practice session that culminated in a 12-7 victory over Clearwater Central Catholic in the spring game, Clearwater hoped to be turning the corner after missing the playoffs the past four seasons.
But attendance at the Tornadoes' first day of fall practice Monday had coach Tom Bostic feeling a bit disenchanted.
Clearwater had nearly 50 players show up — though roughly half stood and watched on the sidelines, unable to participate because of their inability to fill out the necessary paperwork required to practice.
Bostic, entering his 27th season, said most if not all of the idle players will have their paperwork completed in time for today's morning practice. Still, the enthusiasm generated during the spring was tempered by the slow start to fall practice.
"They've known for three weeks to have their paperwork in," Bostic said. "Last week, every day in the weight room we told them to make sure to get it in before (today). … We tried everything we could. We had a paperwork meeting. We've given them all physicals. They had physicals before the spring started. We had free physicals at the Long Center this summer, so they've had at least four opportunities to get the physical and get the paperwork taken care of."
Clearwater spent the early portion of the afternoon session working on receiving drills. Junior quarterback Brian Law, in a battle for the starting spot, did all of the throwing as he was the only quarterback eligible to participate.
Lofty goals at largo: After making the state semifinals the past two seasons, Largo has raised the bar as far as expectations on the first day of practice.
"We don't want to just make the state semifinals again," tight end/defensive end Mike Douglas said. "We want to get to the next level."
That means an appearance in the state championship game. To do that, Largo will have to take a different route after dropping from Class 5A to 4A. The Packers no longer have to face playoff nemesis Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, which remained in 5A. But Largo is now in the same region as Armwood and Hillsborough.
"It will be tough, especially if we make the playoffs and go through the first two rounds," coach Rick Rodriguez said. "But the guys are focused on getting one step farther."
Transition time at Gibbs: It has been a hectic five weeks since Donnie Abraham was hired as Gibbs coach. Abraham, a former standout with the Buccaneers, has been busy hiring a staff and putting together an offensive and defensive system.
"It is an organized mess right now," said Abraham, who replaced Yusif Shakir. "We're still trying to get the kinks out, and we're going to be learning all year."
Abraham plans to run a wide-open spread offense and a 4-3 defense with some Cover 2 schemes. The players have already bought into the system.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm to get the season started," receiver/returner Jarvis West said. "I thought it would take us a few weeks into the season to get everyone working together. But we've showed a lot of progress the last five weeks."
taking the odds: Last season Northeast barely missed the playoffs, falling short in a three-way tiebreaker to Bradenton Southeast and Lakewood.
Now the Vikings are trying to bounce back and a make the playoffs in a new district (Class 5A-9). It's 2009, so Northeast should have a shot. After all, the Vikings have made the playoffs in every odd-numbered year this decade.
Northeast has the skill players with Darryl Copeland at running back, Hank White at receiver and Pete Terrana at tight end. The big question is the offensive line, where the Vikings lost nearly every starter.
"As long as our long can come together, we should be okay," Terrana said. "We think we can win a district title. Anything less would be a failure."
Countryside seniors looking good: Countryside coach John Davis thinks highly of his junior class, and he should. It's a group that includes a minimum of four major college prospects, one of whom (offensive tackle Tyler Moore) might be one of the country's top recruits next year.
But, Davis said, he's also more than satisfied with his senior class.
"I like these guys," Davis said.
The group is big in numbers — and in talent.
Of the 65 players on the varsity, 31 are seniors. Quarterback Jimbo Chmelik, receiver Todd Shorter, lineman Brandon Sommerville, running back Alton Taylor and lineman Mike Wiszowaty are among the class' top players. Shorter has offers from Illinois State and Southern Illinois.
sharing load at tarpon: As you might imagine, Tarpon Springs coach George Kotis is excited to have standout running back Adrian Golden, a Gulf transfer, on his team.
But he insists Golden won't get all the carries.
"We've got four good running backs," Kotis said. "And they're all Division I prospects."
Besides Golden, Kotis touted the abilities of Josiah Fisk and Ladarius Only, both seniors, and junior Darius Daniels.
Kotis said three of the four will often be on the field at once.
"We've always kind of been Tailback High," Kotis said.
time on his hands: Lakewood's Cory Moore didn't have much time to get ready for last season.
Hired in July 2008, he had to quickly assemble a staff and work on offensive and defensive philosophies. The Spartans responded by going 7-3 in the regular season and making the playoffs as a district runnerup.
With a full offseason, Moore has had more time to make an impact.
"What we're trying to do is build a program," Moore said. "A good football program beats a good football team just about every time."