(ran TP edition)
For the first time in seven years, East Bay will start the season with a two-platoon system. This could allow the players to be more rested for games still close in the fourth quarter.
"I've been here seven years and I have seen eight or more kids have to play both offense and defense," said second-year head coach Brian Thornton. "This year we have 72 kids dressing out, and barring key injuries our kids may be able to play offense or defense."
Perhaps the lack of numbers has been part of the reason for East Bay losing its past 24 games, but Thornton is offering no excuses for the 10 he coached.
Last year his strong discipline included dropping several of the most talented upperclassmen from the team.
"We decided to teach younger, often less-talented kids to play with the wishbone," said Thornton. "We started some freshmen and sophomores last year and this year we are starting some sophomores and juniors with some experience and a lot of heart. We hope to win some games this season."
The Indians have six starters back on both defense and offense and only six are seniors.
Passing game: The Indians won't throw much. Most of the wishbone offense is running and ball control.
Chris Houseman can pass when necessary, but primarily he will throw only to open up the run or eliminate an 11-man front.
Aaron Wilson is an end with good hands, and all the backs also have receiving routes.
Running game: "We run the old-fashioned triple-option, read-the-defenses, mix-up-the-blocking schemes wishbone offense," said Thornton.
Houseman spent part of his summer in a wishbone camp in Indiana learning how to read defenses and play with finesse. He can run, according to Thornton.
Ken Gibbons, Terrance Mazion and Willie Cobbert are the backfield starters.
Offensive line: The second key to the wishbone is quick and smart offensive linemen. They must be able to pull and move from one side to the other.
"I love linemen between 210-240 pounds who are smart and quick," said Thornton. "We have that this year and only one of the starters is a senior."
Rob Shay is the senior. Also in the lineup are Josh Lenegar, Sonny Thompson, Ramsey James and Steve Beach.
Defensive line: Thornton is not quite sure what to expect. Junior Bryant Young converted from running back to bolster the line at defensive end. Todd Bell is the only senior, Louis Rodriguez is a junior and Richard Midgette is the biggest at 260 pounds, but he is still a sophomore.
Linebackers: Tyrone Bryant and Donald Hayes, both seniors, lead the brighest spot in the Indians' defense. Bryant outside and Hayes inside are described by coaches as durable and tough.
J.J. Smirowski and Jason Bush, both juniors, complete the starting linebacker corps. All four are quick and are aggressive tacklers.
Defensive backs: Another positive part of the Indians' defense is the secondary.
Senior Paulino Rodriguez will start for the second year at safety. Carey Reid, although only a sophomore, will be starting his second year at cornerback. Donald Taylor, another senior, is the other corner.
Kicking: Gibbons is the kicker. He averaged 40 yards per punt last year and Thornton says he has improved. His placekicking needs work, according to Thornton.
The coach: Thornton shows no signs of being worn down by the Indians' misfortune. The fact he's managed to get 72 kids out for football at East Bay, a school with only a few winning seasons, shows his energetic approach is catching on.
Outlook: East Bay's wishbone is run with discipline. If the ball handlers can prevent turnovers or at least cut them in half over last year, the Indians could very well be a surprise to several teams.
AT A GLANCE
Coach: Brian Thornton, second season (0-10).
Assistant coaches: Mike Gottman, Kevin Kelly, Les Thornton, Tim Jarrell, Winston Davis and John Guarisco.
Colors: Scarlet and gray.
Stadium: E. G. Simmons Field, 7710 Big Ben Road, Gibsonton.
Playoff appearances: 1973.
Last playoff appearance: Class 3A _ Lost to N. Fort Myers 28-13.
1994 results (0-10)
Robinson 12-0 L
at Winter Haven 36-7 L
at Tampa Bay Tech 21-2 L
Lakeland 75-0 L
Armwood 19-7 L
at Lake Gibson 36-6 L
at Hillsborough 40-0 L
Plant City 24-6 L
at Bloomingdale 25-7 L
Jefferson 49-6 L
Doug Erwin, who became the principal at Armwoood this summer after stints at Hillsborough and Plant City, was the coach at East Bay in 1973. He guided the Indians into the school's first and only playoff appearance after a 9-1 regular season. A heavy underdog against North Fort Myers, East Bay got a great performance from quarterback Budd Hardin (15-of-20, 201 yards), but the Red Knights still came away with a 28-13 victory.