With DE Chickillo back, Alonso's defense is feeling whole again

DE Anthony Chickillo, pressuring Jesuit’s Bobby Eveld in a spring game, rehabbed seven days a week to return from injury.

BRIAN BLANCO | Special to the Times

DE Anthony Chickillo, pressuring Jesuit’s Bobby Eveld in a spring game, rehabbed seven days a week to return from injury.

TAMPA — Alonso junior defensive end Anthony Chickillo tends to stand out in a crowd.

His coach talks about his personality, an "infectious attitude" as Mike Heldt calls it.

"You think the swine flu is bad?" Heldt said. "You should see Chickillo. He gets everybody going. He gets everybody fired up."

He stood out at coach Randy Shannon's summer camp at Miami. Coaches in Coral Gables already know about his 'Cane-connected bloodline. His father, Tony, was a standout lineman at Miami and his grandfather also played for the Hurricanes. That's where Chickillo broke the camp record for the short shuttle run among defensive ends with a 4.15.

But Chickillo's greatest feat this season was probably away from the field, where he had seven-days-a-week rehab sessions to recuperate from a broken collarbone that forced him to miss six weeks this season.

Chickillo registered four sacks in the first three quarters of Alonso's season opener against Brandon, but his injury cost him five games.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder returned for the Ravens' game against Plant, a 57-21 loss that gave the Panthers the district title. This week Alonso (5-6) gets its rematch in the 5A region semifinals.

Heldt said the play of his defensive line will be key. So will the play of his best defensive lineman.

Though Chickillo has played in just six games this season, he has 11 sacks and 54 tackles. In the first Plant game, he had 10 tackles and 1½ sacks.

"What amazed me is that he picked up right where he left off," said Chickillo's father, Tony, a fifth-round pick of the Bucs in 1983 who also played with the Chargers and Jets before playing in the AFL.

"It wasn't like he missed time. He didn't play like he had been hurt."

Chickillo used the time away as motivation to get back quickly.

"It was real tough missing those games, having to watch my teammates and not be there with them," Chickillo said. "But every day of rehab I would just remember that feeling of not being able to play, and that made me train real hard so I could get back out here."

And Heldt said the Ravens are a much different — and more dangerous — team with Chickillo in the lineup. Chickillo's father said his son is still probably only about 90 percent healthy.

"Our defense is like night and day," Heldt said. "We were really struggling because we don't have as much depth there. Now that he's back it really helps. For a junior, he's a leader for our football team. He's outspoken. He loves the game of football and all aspects of it."

He has always been around the game. When his father was a defensive line coach at Gaither in 2001, Anthony was the ball boy. Tony Chickillo remembers photos of a young Anthony running around the arena league field as a toddler.

"Honestly, it doesn't seem like that long ago," Tony said.

And now the son is making a name for himself.

Chickillo owns offers from Miami and FIU; Connecticut, Maryland and UCF have made oral offers. Notre Dame and Florida have also shown interest.

And a big game in the playoffs against the defending state champs? Just another way Chickillo would stand out.

. fast facts

Playoff schedule

Games at 7:30 p.m. Friday

Region semifinals

5A: Countryside at Tampa Bay Tech

5A: St. Petersburg at

Manatee

5A: Alonso at Plant

4A: Gainesville at Tarpon Springs

4A: Armwood at Largo

3A: Lakewood at Jefferson

Region finals

2A: Hardee at Robinson

2B: Lake Highland at Tampa Catholic

With DE Chickillo back, Alonso's defense is feeling whole again 11/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 11:41pm]

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