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COUNTRYSIDE // Musical positions for the Cougars

(ran CTI LTCTNT)

Countryside coach Bob Stephens may sometimes have trouble this season remembering which player goes where, but that's not because he has so many players he can't keep them straight.

The kids he can keep straight. But when some of them play three or four positions in any number of defensive and offensive sets, forgive Stephens if he forgets where they should line up.

His starting quarterback, Matt Santa, also will play defensive back. His backup quarterback, Brad Beard, has learned almost every other position. Junior Ben Brown, his big defensive tackle (6 feet 4, 265 pounds), will also play offensive tackle and, just in case, he is the third-string center.

Then there is Doug Mitchem, a first-team wide receiver, the third-team quarterback, a third-team running back and a second-team defensive back.

The Cougars have two factors working against them: They have just 33 players, and after a 2-8 season as an independent they now are playing in Class 6A, District 7.

"I don't have a first and second team," Stephens said. "I have a first team and then substitutes. That's tough in any A. But it's a lot tougher in 6A."

On the ground: Expect to see almost anything, except the wishbone. "Anything else is fair game," Stephens said. Creativity is the key, because Countryside doesn't have the personnel to bang out three or four yards at a time.

Jay Wozniak will start at tailback and Keith Nisbett at fullback, while Adam Curtis and Travis Newberry will rotate in. They'll be running behind a line anchored by Sean McDonnell, Shaun Dillinger and Dave Schmidgall.

Through the air: Santa and Beard are doing a good job checking off plays at the line. When they throw, it likely will be to Mitchum or Anthony Gockenbach, the two biggest threats.

Defense, defense: Stephens wants to keep his best athletes here, as the defense will have to take on much of the burden. Brown, linebacker Ryan Roark and lineman Mark Kelcourse will be the mainstays of the unit and will spend most of their time there. Players like linebackers Ken Poll and Tony Avila also will play mostly on defense. Ruben Stokes, Mitchum, Wozniak and Gockenbach will see most of the secondary duty.

Just for kicks: Probably the biggest plus is the kicking game, where the Cougars have junior Dino Riberio.

AT A GLANCE

Coach: Bob Stephens, seventh year (23-38).

Assistants: Mike June, Kevin McElveen, Richard Rossow, John Ganley, Dean Newberry, Hank Howard.

Nickname: Cougars.

Stadium: Cougar Field.

District: Class 6A, District 7.

1994 record: 2-8. Wins: Largo 12-6, Dunedin 23-3. Losses: Clearwater 47-12, Northeast 38-8, East Lake 21-13, Sarasota 56-13, Tarpon Springs 27-3, Seminole 27-14, Boca Ciega 17-6, Leto 17-6.

Playoff history: None.

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