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Palm Harbor U.: Season preview

Two strengths

1. Quarterback. The position is in the capable hands of Shelton, a three-year starter. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder is an athletic runner with a strong arm. "I think he'll be one of the top quarterbacks in the county," Just said. "He provides great leadership. He's a captain for us. He's very bright football-wise."

2. Offensive line. With three returning starters — Mark Hansson, Julian Matusewicz and Mitch Purse —the offensive line, once an area of concern, has become a strength. Hansson and Matusewicz also anchor an aggressive defensive line that causes confusion with its stunts and overall quickness.

Coach: Pete Just (third season, 7-13) | Last season: 4-6 | Class: 5A, District 9 | Colors: Burgundy, navy and white

With a number of underclassmen playing significant minutes in 2007, third-year coach Pete Just thinks this team is the most experienced he has fielded. According to Just, the Hurricanes are "mentally tough" with a "great attitude." Will those positives translate into the first winning season? Starting quarterback Sean Shelton thinks so. "Since I've played here, we didn't have a swagger," he said. "We're just starting to show it now. This year should be the best Palm Harbor team we've had."

Two questions

1. Will the defense improve after surrendering nearly 30 points a game last season?

It better, if the Hurricanes have playoff aspirations. Linebackers struggled last year reading plays. First-year defensive coordinator Mark Haye has turned up the intensity at practices.

2. Who will replace 1,000-yard rusher Dajuan Bush as the primary ballcarrier?

No back has separated himself from the pack. Senior Phillip Gandolfo as well as juniors J.J. Rivera and JaTyuan Landing will see most of the carries. Fullbacks Matt (Spike) McGinty and Ryan Hoyt will also be counted on.

Bryan Burns, Times staff writer

Palm Harbor U.: Season preview 09/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 4, 2008 3:52pm]
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