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DUNNELLON TIGERS // Needed: a winning attitude

(ran HT CI)

Dunnellon High jumps back into district action (Class 4A, District 6) this season after two years as an independent and with a new head coach in Gene Burleson, 50.

The man who has devoted 26 years to high school football, 11 as a head coach, has put in time at Tallahassee Godby and Pensacola Washington, and comes to Dunnellon after one season with West Oak High in Westminster, S.C.

"The attitudes of our players and school as well as the community have to change," Burleson said. "The school has gone 10 years without a winning season and through three or four coaches in that time. With that many changes in coaches and no change in results, the problem may lie elsewhere and that's why I think we need to change the attitudes of everybody involved."

Burleson said he has about 40 varsity players with 15-18 returnees from 1994. Finding someone to fill the void left by K.

J. Bostick, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards three straight years, will be pivotal to the Tigers' attack. The offense will operate out of the I-formation.

Passing game: Junior Matt Burleson, the coach's son, will call signals. He's an accurate passer, Burleson said. Receivers include Johnny Aiduck, Al Washington, Del Chesteen and C. J. Jenkins.

Running game: Lonnie Townsend, who carried the ball nine times for the varsity last year, and Willie Watts will share time at fullback. Roscoe Watts, a converted defensive back, is considered the top tailback, although Keith Bostick and Dale Bostick will see playing time as well.

Offensive line: Former linebacker Randy Roland (6 feet 4, 220 pounds) will hold down the tight end spot. Todd Williams (6-3, 310) should be a formidable presence at one tackle, with Keith Chesteen the other starter. Jack Duley and Kelly Jerrels are the guards, and former defensive tackle Nick Toaso will be at center.

Defensive line: Burleson spent part of the preseason sorting through several candidates at nose guard. Roland is penciled in as one of the ends, and Martez Gunter and Chris Dickson likely will alternate at the other end.

Linebackers: Watts and Townsend will pull double duty as starters. Roland may occasionally fill in here.

Defensive backs: Dale Johnston has a lock on the strong safety position.

Kicking game: Aiduck returns to handle kickoffs, field goals and point-afters. He has the leg and just needs consistency, Burleson said. Watts steps in as the new punter.

The coach: Motivation looks to be Burleson's big task.

"As there hasn't been a winning season here in 10 years you're in a situation where attitude has a tendency to dwindle and that can be seen in some of the practices where you may get 40 kids out one day and only 30 another," Burleson said. "We have to bring back the attitude, but the nucleus that's staying is working hard to get better."

Outlook: The Tigers not only enter a 4A district with Crystal River, Lecanto, Hernando and Central, but they're also in the Gulf Coast Conference this fall. Dunnellon also has an unbalanced schedule with just nine games, five at home and four away.

"I'm glad we're back in a district," Burleson said. "It's good for the kids though it will be harder as we play a tougher schedule. They picked up an easier schedule here last year as an independent and that didn't help, so who knows? There's a gold ring out there to grab if you're willing to do what it takes."

AT A GLANCE

Coach: Gene Burleson (first year).

Assistant coaches: Dick Russell, Art Maurceri, Lamar Waters, Mike Payne, Bill McDivett.

Colors: Red and black.

Stadium: Tiger Stadium, on campus on Tiger Trail off County Road 484.

Class: 4A, District 6.

1994 record: 4-6.

State titles: 1978 (2A); 1979 (2A).

Playoff history

1978: Beat Umatilla 28-0; beat Clermont 14-7; beat Mulberry 35-12; beat Crawfordville Wakulla 17-12 for state title.

1979: Beat Mullberry 35-6; beat Pahokee 47-6; beat Bonifay Holmes Co. 20-6 for state title.

1981: Beat Tavares 7-0; beat Mulberry 20-7; lost to Clewiston 14-6.

1985: Beat Jacksonville Bolles 21-7; lost to DeFuniak Spr. Walton 28-15.

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