(ran CTI LTCTNT)
While Admiral Farragut Academy celebrates its 50th year, the football program also celebrates an anniversary.
It has been 20 years since the Blue Jackets' last winning season.
Coach Mike Nuccio, an offensive lineman for Admiral Farragut in the late 1970s, just missed on that watershed season. And for the last three years as a coach, he has been trying to attain it.
During the first team meeting, Nuccio gathers his players to talk about the 1975 team, which posted a 5-3 record.
He doesn't go over details. And why would he? His players weren't even born.
"I tell these players that this (a winning season) is something that has happened before," Nuccio said. "There's no reason why Farragut can't win the district title."
Before the Blue Jackets can win a title, though, they have to have a winning season.
Nuccio came close last year with a 4-6 record _ the best since 1979-80. It was only the fourth team to reach four victories in school history. If it wasn't for a seven-point loss to district runner-up Temple Heights and a three-point loss to Broward Christian, Admiral Farragut could have stopped the streak.
To achieve their goal in '95, the Blue Jackets will have to do a lot with a little.
Last year's starting quarterback and leader, Ryan Leasure, signed with West Virginia Tech this summer _ the first football scholarship for the school since the 1960s. Also gone is one side of the offensive line and Khaalis Burroughs, a bruising running back. All have graduated.
Nuccio was counting on Anthony Rintala, a speed receiver who showed flashes last season but decided to concentrate on basketball.
Still, the goal is the same. A winning season.
On the ground: Without Leasure, who set a school record for passing yards in a season, Nuccio will stick with the running game. Jules Fagan returns along with Joe Yuen. Yuen, a versatile player from Hong Kong, could line up at running back, quarterback and receiver _ wherever he is needed. Freddie McRae, a newcomer, also could share time in the backfield.
They will run behind an experienced offensive line, at least half of it. Wes Dennis (6-foot, 220 pounds), Corey Oldknow (5-10, 185) and David Charlesworth (5-10, 170) return and will most likely line up along the same side.
Through the air: After chasing quarterbacks as a freshman linebacker last season, Frank Wintrich will be a quarterback this year. He'll be throwing to a receiving corps that is, well, up for grabs. L. J. Eve, Paul Alsobrook and Sylvio Brutus are the contenders to replace the one main threat _ Rintala. And Wintrich may not have many chances to throw. During the spring game, the Blue Jackets did not attempt a pass. "We want Frank to learn the offense and allow Jules and Freddie to hopefully get 1,000 yards on the ground," Nuccio said.
Defense, defense: Oldknow, Dennis and Charlesworth will play both ways, anchoring the line. Nuccio's biggest concern, however, is the secondary, having to replace Rintala and Kent Culpepper. Yuen remains the one constant at cornerback.
Just for kicks: Leasure and Rintala shared the kicking duties last season. Both are gone, so the kicking game is wide open.
AT A GLANCE
Coach: Mike Nuccio (fourth year, 8-20).
Assistants: David Smith, Bill Ford, Dennis Burgun, Rob Lewis, Demetrious Liaros, and John Toronski.
Nickname: Blue Jackets.
Stadium: Blue Jacket Stadium, 501 Park St. N.
District: Class 2A, District 6.
1994 record: 4-6 (fifth in district). Wins: Melbourne Florida Air Academy 25-13, Zion Lutheran Chr. 48-0, Indian Rocks Chr. 20-6, Americana Prep 2-0. Losses: Winter Park Trinity Prep 35-7, Shorecrest 46-8, Northside Chr. 14-0, Temple Heights 22-15, Broward Chr. 13-10, Lakeland Santa Fe 48-22.
Playoff history: None.