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Is this the year Clearwater finally catches a break?
Last year, the Tornadoes rebounded from a losing season in 1993 to an 8-2 record and a tie for first in the district _ but still missed the playoffs. Clearwater's hopes for its first playoff berth since 1978 ended when it lost in the three-way tiebreaker with Tarpon Springs and East Lake.
The Tornadoes return just nine starters this year, but coach Tom Bostic's 13th season could be his lucky one.
With district realignment, East Lake and Tarpon are out of the picture, while Class 5A, District 9 mates Largo, Dunedin, Pinellas Park and Plant are concentrating on turning programs around. Jefferson is expected to be tough.
The key for Clearwater will be how quickly its young players learn. Bostic has several solid starters back, but the rest of the team will have to step up, especially on both lines.
"They've been working hard," Bostic said. "We've been pleased so far with the progress."
On the ground: All-county tailback Jermaine Clemons, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, is gone. But Bostic expects junior Terrance Williams to fill in nicely. Williams started at safety last year, and also has distinguished himself on the track. Otis Dixon, who had 621 yards and six touchdowns last year, returns at fullback.
The offensive line is a big question mark. Senior Bill Perry (6 feet 2, 283 pounds) is the top returner. "There's not a lot of experience, even though they're seniors," Bostic said.
In the air: Receiver Chris Daniels and his height and speed will be missed. Senior Greg Krauss is the No. 1 wideout. At split end last year, he caught 10 passes for 172 yards. Tight end Matt Giddens also will catch a few.
Throwing to Krauss from the quarterback spot probably will be senior returner Tondrick Robinson, though junior backup Mike Hedge is making good progress. Both are passing well and running the offense well in practice, Bostic said. Clearwater will try to throw the ball more, but also plans to run a lot of option.
Defense, defense: Only two linemen have experience: Perry and senior Bob Gold. At linebacker, Dixon and Jerome Jackson are returning. Clearwater has more starters returning on the secondary than anywhere else, including Tony Hardman at safety, Ameer Davis at cornerback and Williams and Robinson.
Just for kicks: Bostic is delighted with his kicking game. Krauss was the Times' first-team All-Suncoast placekicker last season. He was 38 of 39 on extra points, 4 of 7 on field goals, had a 51-yard field goal and averaged 58 yards a kickoff. Clearwater gets a big test in the opener. It will face East Lake, now in 6A, at home.
AT A GLANCE
Coach: Tom Bostic, 13th season (83-43).
Assistants: Rick Rodriguez, John Skiratko, Frank Roberson, Jim Daugherty, Mike Davis, Joe Holt, Fred Davies.
Stadium: Jack White Stadium.
District: Class 5A, District 9.
1994 record: 8-2. Wins: Countryside 47-12, Springstead 37-14, Pinellas Park 28-0, Ridgewood 35-0, Seminole 32-31, Tarpon Springs 42-14, Dunedin 55-0, Largo 35-14. Losses: East Lake 13-0, Dixie Hollins 30-19.
1964: Lost to Jax Lee 17-0
1969: Lost to Brandon 20-6
1970: Lost to L'land Kathleen 24-7
1978: Lost to Plant 28-6