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Run-happy East Lake runs wild

This isn't supposed to happen in this day and age, this era of no-huddle offenses, space-age game plans and play diagrams that read like quadratic equations. An undefeated football team that has passed only 11 times in three games?

The last time anyone heard of that, they were driving home from the hula hoop store in a car with tail fins.

Retro, however, is all the rage at East Lake High, where the run-happy Eagles have leaped _ make that pounded _ to the top of Class 4A, District 8. East Lake, currently 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the district, travels to meet non-district St. Petersburg tonight.

"We are definitely on the right track," said fullback Jay J. Martin. "Every game we just seem to be getting stronger and stronger. It seems like East Lake has been on a rampage."

Or, more appropriately, a stampede. Led by Martin and backfield mates Pete Apostolou and Mark Moore and a quick, strong offensive line, the Eagles have been bullish on defenses this year, averaging more than 200 yards per game on the ground.

Last week against Ridgewood, East Lake rolled up 384 yards rushing, passing only once _ for an incompletion _ in a 33-8 win. Apostolou is currently fifth in the county with 329 yards. Fullback Martin has 263 and Moore, the quarterback who uses his legs more than his arm, has 150.

And who knows? "We might even start throwing about the sixth or seventh game and really confuse people," said head coach Rob Jenkins.

The Eagles' offense has created enough confusion as it is, with three players hitting from three different angles in its veer-oriented attack.

Martin hits inside _ "I'm the one who likes to run over people, they are the ones who like to do the moves and stuff" _ Apostolou goes outside, and Moore keeps everyone honest with the keeper. Moore played tailback for the Eagles last year and finished with 649 yards, seven touchdowns and a 9-yard-per-carry average.

When defenses key on one player, another winds up with the yards. Ridgewood keyed on Martin after watching him run for more than 100 yards against Tarpon Springs, opening up the outside for Apostolou, who finished the day with 192 yards.

Running is nothing new to the Eagles, though. Jenkins' teams have been known to trench-fight their way to victory. This year, however, the Eagles linemen are dominating opponents with technique rather than the overpowering size they have used in the past. One side of the line (the Eagles flip-flop their linemen) is the biggest with tight end Matt Almond (6-4, 210), tackle Phil Warren (6-4, 240), and guard Brendan Baumeister (6-3, 210). After center Randy Brown (190) comes guard Neal Gemma and tackle Jeff Richardson, who scale 175 and 180 respectively.

Jenkins credits offensive line coach Tom Keeler with schooling the linemen well enough to go through their assignments with confidence.

"I don't think we are a whole lot stronger than people," Moore said. "A lot of it is just being where we are supposed to be, and executing real well."

And, to put it mildly, they are.

"We were watching the Ridgewood films and Phil Warren was demolishing the guy he was blocking," said Martin.

Martin, a 215-pounder who can bench press nearly 300 pounds, is no slouch in the blocking department either.

"You couldn't ask for a better fullback than Jay J.," said Apostolou. "I remember one time in the jamboree, he just ran through one guy like he wasn't even there, just laid him out. The guy was never the same after that."

And it's not the same East Lake this year, either, said Jenkins. The defense is stopping people _ the Eagles have given up just 27 points, which helps reduce the pressure on the offense.

"We are practicing harder than ever now," Apostolou said. "Football wasn't that big at East Lake two years ago. Now we walk down the hallways at school and everybody is talking to us, saying "Good job this week.'

"If somebody is going to beat us, they are going to have to really beat us."