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East Lake High has come a long way from its first season in 1987, when the Eagles were a little-known, Class 3A independent team.
Since then they've grown and grown. And moved up again and again.
The Eagles seemed to get their footing in Class 5A last year, making their first playoff appearance in school history as district runners-up. Now, a year later, they're moving up again _ to mighty 6A.
"Every time we figure somebody out, we're moved to a new district," lamented ninth-year coach Rob Jenkins.
But that's the only peep you'll hear from him about the new classification. He's used to moving, so are the kids, and they all are excited about taking on "mystery" teams like Hillsborough, Chamberlain, Gaither, King and Leto.
"It really makes preparing for the week (harder). You just have to kind of go with it," said Jenkins, clearly relishing the challenge. "Coaching-wise, that's part of the fun of it. They don't know what we're doing."
It should be an interesting season, and not just because the Eagles will be testing their mettle against the big boys. East Lake may field what could be the first female varsity starter in county history. Junior Andrea Kavouklis, a soccer player, is expected to start at placekicker.
On the ground: The offensive line, anchored by Todd Strott and Chris Stewart, is big and solid and should keep the running game moving smoothly. Roy Manns, a power runner, and elusive Keeno Chiles will alternate at tailback. Trevor Webb and Justin Sills will see time at fullback.
Through the air: East Lake has averaged five or six passes a game the past few years, and things may not change much. But the Eagles have experience in quarterback Ryan Snare, a junior in his third year as a starter. He'll have David Holland to throw to.
Defense, defense: The Eagles have one of the strongest secondaries in the county with Holland, who has 19 interceptions in the past two years and was an All-Pinellas County Athletic Conference selection last year; Manns, an all-county defensive back; and Jay Mize and Kelvin Williams, who each have more than a season of starting experience. They also return all-conference linebacker Webb, last year's leading tackler. On the line, East Lake is suffering the loss of Justin Brown and two other starters.
Just for kicks: Kavouklis is slated as the Eagles' starting kicker. She is extremely accurate, Jenkins said, as well as experienced, having started for the junior varsity team . . . The Eagles, who lost 22 seniors (11 starters), need to watch out for injuries. Jenkins said if a lot of players are hurt, "We could go from very good to average."
AT A GLANCE
Coach: Rob Jenkins, ninth season (46-37).
Assistants: Darius Holtzclaw, Tom Keeler, Chris Waite.
Stadium: East Lake Stadium.
District: Class 6A, District 7.
1994 record: 7-4. Wins: Pinellas Park 35-7, Countryside 21-13, Clearwater 13-0, Ridgewood 28-6, Lakewood 38-14, Springstead 34-9, Dunedin 27-7. Losses: Tarpon Springs 17-14, Northeast 20-0, Dixie Hollins 10-6. Class 5A state playoffs _ Dixie Hollins 30-13.
1994: Lost to Dixie Hollins 30-13