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CRYSTAL RIVER PIRATES // Young Pirates face rebuilding task

(ran PT CI HT)

More challenges.

That's what awaits Crystal River coach Earl Bramlett, who in his 11th season with the Pirates will attempt to rebuild with a young lineup after last year's playoff season.

"It's another year," said Bramlett, whose team went 7-3 last regular season and made the playoffs as the 4A-District 6 runner-up. "Our kids are going to have some challenges to overcome. It's exciting to see which ones accept those challenges and go out there and go to work."

Here's a closer look at the players who will look to tackle those challenges:

Passing game: The Pirates still are waiting, Bramlett said, for one of three young quarterbacks to step up and claim the starting position vacated by multi-threat Ryan Reynolds (577 yards passing, 310 rushing). Sophomores Bruce Bellamy, Jimmy Grimsley and Wes Worthington have been taking snaps.

Two receivers have experience: wideout William Richardson (10 catches, 101 yards, no TDs) and wingback Anthony Cooks (12 catches, 193 yards, 1 TD). With similar size, Richardson can hope to develop the big-play ability of last year's leading receiver, Terrell Rucker (17 catches, 12.2 avg., 4 TDs).

Running game: With a young quarterback, the Pirates' I-formation offense will rely heavily on the running game. Tailback Jimmy DeVaughn (414 yards, 6 TDs) has been one of the most impressive players in fall camp, Bramlett said. Larry Summerlin and Bo Jefferson back up DeVaughn. Fullbacks Jason Massey, Chad Doss and Clayton Boyette will pound the middle.

Offensive line: The Pirates have a blend of experience and raw size here as two newcomers _ tackles Sam Houston and David Desmond _ tip the scales at more than 260 pounds apiece, and center Robert Swanson chimes in at 229.

Third-year starter Gabe Spooner fits Bramlett's bill for smaller, quicker guards, as does converted tight end John Martynowski. Brent Worthington and Todd Petrie add depth at tackle, while Chris Smith and Josh Smith back up at guard.

Defensive line: This was a question mark through fall drills, Bramlett said..

Linebackers: Though head-hunting middle linebacker Eric Lockley will be sorely missed, the Pirates have key players. Spooner moves from an inside spot to join Doss on the outside, while Boyette patrols the middle.

Defensive backs: Cliff Lohrey moves from a linebacking spot to corner, Bramlett said, in an effort to put the most dependable players in key positions. Speedy Cooks is at the other corner. Summerlin and John Krusch are the safeties. Backups in the secondary include Bellamy and Jamie Morgan.

Kicking game: Boyette, Richardson and Summerlin are taking a crack at placekicking and punting, Bramlett said.

The coach: Bramlett's reputation as one of the craftiest coaches on the North Suncoast is intact as he enters his 11th season with the Pirates. Few would doubt his ability to mold a young team into a contender by the time post-season bids are awarded.

Outlook: The Pirates will have to overcome inexperience in the skill positions, particularly quarterback. But key games against 4A-6 newcomers Hernando and Central come late in the season, a plus for the maturing Pirates. Those teams represented two of Crystal River's three regular-season losses last year.

AT A GLANCE

Coach: Earl Bramlett, 11th season (65-39).

Assistant coaches: Jere DeFoor, Norris Lightsey, Tommy Williams, Jim Lightbody, Craig Frederick, Karl Seig, Rodney Smith, Al Fournier and Brian Sullivan.

Colors: Blue and gold.

Stadium: Pirate Field, on campus on NE Eighth Avenue off County Road 44.

Class: 4A, District 6.

Playoff history

1988: Lost to Alachua Santa Fe 14-5.

1991: Lost to Alachua Santa Fe 58-0.

1994: Lost to Alachua Santa Fe 56-0.

1994 results (7-4)

at Hernando 28-7 L

at Williston 21-7 W

Dunnellon 35-29 W

Lecanto 34-0 W

at South Lake 27-3 W

South Sumter 28-7 L

at F.M. Lehigh 37-20 W

Gulf 10-3 W

Central 7-6 L

at Citrus 6-0 W

Class 4A state playoffs

at Alachua Santa Fe 56-0 L

Did you know?

Crystal River coach Earl Bramlett has lost 50 pounds since last season. Down to 190, he shed the weight by exercising _ running and walking _ and watching the fat content of his foods. He hasn't had a dessert, he said, since March.

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