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DURANT COUGARS // Durant ready to make its mark

(ran TP edition)

Because of some of the problems that go with initiating a high school program, it would be easy for head coach Jim Wilt to concede Durant's inaugural season and look ahead to the second year.

After all, with no seniors on the team, everyone should be back next year with some experience.

However, Wilt refuses to allow the young Cougars to be complacent in the school's first football season.

During practice he wears a ball cap with two words boldly written on it, "No Excuses."

"It would be real easy to allow the team to simply look ahead to next year, but we will accept no excuses to just lose this season," said Wilt. "We expect to be in many of our games and even win one or two. We don't want to just look ahead to next year."

The Cougars will be opening with a trap option offense to better utilize the small but quick talent on the team. In that scheme, offensive linemen pull and make angle blocks.

Passing game: Versatile junior Josh Genrich will be the starting quarterback. The multiple offense will make use of his ability to handle the ball and pass on the move.

Receivers include Torree Ingram, Sterling Roberts and Russ Pondo, and tight ends Sam Wagner and Jeramy Gomer. Catching passes out of the backfield will be Gary Bradley, also the backup quarterback; Wesley Reece and Rashad Orr.

Wilt said Durant will pass about 30 percent of the time initially.

Running game: Durant's strength in the early part of the season will be head-on running by fullbacks Sean Gaudion and Reece, a junior and a freshman. The quick-footed Genrich and Bradley as well as sophomore Orr will be counted on to run outside.

Offensive line: Wilt said his offensive line is young and quick, and has made a lot of progress. T.J. Haas is the starting center and will be flanked by guards Jeff Allen and Kenneth Hiscock.

Perry Chancey, Vernon McClelland and Jarred Wachcaser are battling for the two starting spots at tackle.

Wilt said all need to do some strength work.

Defensive line: Sam Wagner will join Chancey, McClelland and Wachcaser on defense.

"The defensive line will have to stick with simple basic gap control for a while," said Wilt. "We will have to hold back on blitzes at least initially."

Linebackers: The linebacker corps brings defensive hope to the Durant coaches. Reece played much of the time last year for Plant City even though only a sophomore. He will man the inside along with Gaudion, a freshman, while Orr and Bradley will be on the outside.

"This will be the most positive part of our defense at the start of the season," said Wilt. "We have some experience there, but primarily we have four very aggressive players. We will be asking them to lead the defense for us this year."

Defensive backfield: Roberts leads the secondary from his free safety position. Jamaal Johnson, Steven Lambert and Ingram will alternate at the corners.

Wilt said all are solid tacklers and aggressive on deep coverage.

Kicking: This area needs some work, according to Wilt. Wagner and Chancey have done some kicking and will compete for the starter's job.

Coach: Wilt is new to the school, but not new to the area. He previously was the head coach at East Bay and also was an assistant at Brandon and Armwood. His forte has been developing solid passing games, but it may take awhile to do that at Durant.

Outlook: The Cougars have some speed, but need to learn to play together as a team. They will meet some tough Polk County competition in District 7, and although not a playoff threat, they could win some games.

AT A GLANCE

Coach: Jim Wilt, first year (25-24 in five seasons overall).

Assistant coaches: David New, Dwayne Butler, Billy Riley, Artis Gambrell, Rick Reece, Tyvan Lindbeck, Paul Lindstrom, Kerry Merritt and Gary Graham.

Colors: Navy, gold and green.

Stadium: Cougar Stadium, which is under construction 8383 Turkey Creek Road. If it is not completed, Durant will play home games at an alternate site.

Class: 4A, District 7.

Playoff appearances: None.

Glory days

Obviously, as a new school, Durant has no history to look back upon. But the Cougars hope to build upon a foundation of East Hillsborough football strength that includes a state championship in 1969 by Pinecrest and a 26-game winning streak from 1950-52 by Turkey Creek. Both of those dropped from high school status in the early 1970s in the midst of integration.

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