(ran CTI LTCTNT)
Many high school coaches will tell you how important it is just to get players, but Dunedin first-year coach Pete Just isn't merely paying that philosophy lip service. He's serious.
By the end of last season, the Falcons' varsity squad was down to 15 players. Some were out because of eligibility problems, while others just quit, discouraged by the team's poor record. Dunedin finished 1-9.
Enter Just, a former assistant at Countryside and Lakewood. His first project was to bring kids in for spring practices, motivate them and get them to stay. Now he must take his 34 players and mold them into a team that not only will be competitive but will draw more support from its close-knit community.
That's a lot to accomplish in one season. If the Falcons do it, it likely will be because of a nucleus of speedy, talented skill position players like tailback Ashley Mouzon, receiver Derek Hall and quarterback Sam Pitts.
"We're starting from scratch, basically," Just said. "We do want to be competitive right off the bat. We don't want teams to count us as a win when they see us on the schedule."
On the ground: The Falcons' main objective is to establish the run. Mouzon, the 100-meter champion at last year's Class 5A, Region 2 meet, will take on most of the ballcarrying duties. Jeremy Wynn and Jason Butler also will see time at both tailback and fullback.
The offensive line they're running behind is young and inexperienced. Among the returners are tackles Matt Ratti and Jim Stieben, who played as sophomores last year. Guard Jeff Sojack, a senior who started last season, is the most experienced player on the line.
Through the air: Pitts, one of the captains, is a returning starter who can run as well as throw. Just said Pitts will run some option and operate a little out of the shotgun, though he's not a true drop-back passer. Hall probably will be his main target. Just said Hall is being looked at by Division I schools just for his speed (a dizzying 4.3 seconds in the 40).
Defense, defense: Dunedin's defensive line also is inexperienced, with Sojack the only returner. Senior Rod Crabbe, who did not play last year, and junior Chris Harvey are the most experienced linebackers. Sophomore Phillip Mouzon, though young, has seen starting time at strong safety. Rounding out the secondary will be Pitts, Hall, Wynn and senior Joe German.
Just for kicks: Transfer student Janzie Fedorchak, a soccer player from Ocala, will handle the punting and placekicking duties Just is hoping his team's youth pays off down the line. "If we can be competitive this year," he said, "we have good things to come."
AT A GLANCE
Coach: Pete Just, first year.
Assistants: Tony Atherholt, Dean Schaefer, Tyrone Mouzon, Gary Burney, Todd Donohoe.
Stadium: Dunedin Memorial.
District: Class 5A, District 9.
1994 record: 1-9. Win: Ridgewood 40-9. Losses: Dixie Hollins 48-3, Northeast 28-7, Largo 35-10, Tarpon Springs 30-3, Countryside 23-3, Springstead 27-26, St. Petersburg 31-7, Clearwater 55-0, East Lake 27-7.
1979: Lost to Plant 26-6
1981: Beat King 16-13; beat Orl. Evans 13-7; lost to Lynn Haven Mosley 36-13
1982: Beat Chamberlain 7-6; lost to Lakeland 24-21 (2 OT)
1986: Beat Brad. Manatee 13-10; beat Coral Spr. Taravella 20-7; beat Miami Carol City 17-6; lost to Lakeland 14-10
1987: Beat PB Gardens 38-7; beat Laud. Lakes Boyd Anderson 9-7; beat Miami Carol City 7-0; lost to Pen. Pine Forest 24-0