Promises for the '08 campaign
1. Competitiveness. With the inaugural season of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, HCA looks like one of the favorites to make it to the championship game Nov. 14 at The Villages.
2. Being fundamentally sound. No coach in Hernando County focuses more on fundamentals than David Raley. With a lot of middle school athletes on his varsity squad, it's necessary.
3. Chemistry. With only 29 players, most of the Lions play on both sides of the ball. This Ironman style brings the squad together over the course of the season.
What the Lions can't promise
1. Another 6-2 season. Coming off its best season in program history, HCA lost one of the best players in the county when tight end Clay Kessler transferred to Hernando.
2. Star power. Over the years, HCA has relied on the likes of Kessler, linebacker Corey Drummond and quarterback Steve Johnson to grab attention. Major stars aren't a focus on the current team.
3. High-scoring games. Adapting to new skill players has left Raley limiting the playbook. The Wing-T offense will focus on Jeremy Knight, the only returning tailback, and Winsor Sineus, a freshman transfer.
A look at the some of the key figures in the Lions' 2008 campaign:
Primary offensive skill player: QB David Rotteveel. Has the arm to be a college prospect, though his body hasn't quite caught up. Without Kessler to throw to, the senior will have to make a lot of plays with his legs.
Primary defensive skill player: CB Ian Townsend. Is a shutdown cornerback. In the spring game against Bradenton Christian, the sophomore picked off three passes.
Primary offensive lineman: OG Josh Westfall. Leads a surprisingly experienced line. With four of the five starters seniors, the Lions will have protection for Rotteveel.
Primary defensive lineman: DT Josh Romeo. Though the senior is a massive force on the inside and looks like a run stopper at first glance, he has patented himself as a pass rusher.
Primary special-teams player: K Kenny Lehman. To show how big of a loss Kessler was, he was the starting kicker as well, but Lehman should step right in.
Derek LaRiviere, Times correspondent