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Bogart gives Hurricanes a leg up

Damon Bogart's ability to do a split has the Citrus High football team doing back flips.

Every Friday night, Bogart converts his natural flexibility into a weapon not many high school football teams enjoy _ a punter who routinely hits 50-yarders.

Bogart has punted 11 times this season for a 44.8-yard average, prompting Citrus head coach Gene Roberts to alter a long-time Citrus football strategy with just his right foot.

"It's both an offensive and defensive weapon for us," Roberts said of Bogart's punting. "If you don't have a good kicker, sometimes you rely on your defense to hold people. Because of him, we have changed some of the philosophy they have had here at Citrus for years.

"In the past, we would always elect to kick and put our defense on the field first, let them get field position for us. Now we take the ball first because we know even if we don't get a first down, Damon can kick it in the end zone.

"It's all about controlling the field," Roberts added. "If we kick it to start the game, the other team gets it at about the 30- or 35-yard line. If we take it, and Damon kicks it, they get it at the 20."

Most of the time, Bogart can assure the Hurricanes defense that the opposition will start their drives in their own territory, creating at least a 50-yard cushion for an already stingy unit that gives up an average of only 2.8 yards per play.

So strong is Bogart's leg, that many times this season he has outkicked his coverage unit.

Last week against Hernando, Bogart punted four times: 67 yards, 59 yards and two each for 38 yards. The 67-yarder, which came late in the fourth quarter, traveled 57 yards in the air and bounced another 10 yards into the end zone before the Citrus coverage unit could chase it down.

"And that was in the rain," said Roberts, who likens Bogart's technique to that of Miami Dolphins punter Reggie Roby.

"Damon has very, very powerful legs," Roberts said. "His leg comes way up over his head, a lot like Roby. He gets full extension, and his range of motion is a wonderful gift. Damon is so flexible, when we stretch, he does splits."

And the rest of the team marvels.

"I'm the only one on the team that can do a split," Bogart said, smiling shyly. "Everyone says, "How can you do that?' But I guess it's from my brother Ryan. He's flexible that way. He's a dancer with a troupe in Pennsylvania."

But Bogart would rather turn his elasticity into a college football scholarship, even though he knows punters are not the most respected of football players.

"All they do is walk on the field and punt," Bogart said, alluding to the less-than-physical nature of a punter's duties.

But be assured, Bogart's high school helmet has more than just one bar across the front.

Bogart (5-foot-9, 180 pounds) is a starter at inside linebacker, where his 33 tackles rank second on the team behind fellow linebacker Shawn Nolan's 40. He also is a potent running back in the Hurricanes' wing-T offense, carrying the ball 14 times for 150 yards and a 10.7-yard average.

"I think that he really exemplifies what a Citrus player is, since I've been here and from everything I've heard about the past," Roberts said. "He's not real big, but he's quick and has a lot of heart."

And a lot of foot.