(ran CTI LTCTNT)
The distractions aren't there like they were last season: No moves out of state by the team's leading rusher, no season-ending injuries, for example.
And there's a bonus. Coach Brian Bruch has learned a thing or two about the passing game. That's a thing or two more than he knew last year.
"I couldn't coach the passing game last year," admitted Bruch, a longtime defensive coach. "I didn't know how."
Enter Ernest Givins, former Lakewood star and Jacksonville Jaguar wide receiver. Givins spent a lot of the offseason working with the Spartan players _ and coaching staff _ on the proper ways to run and read routes. Bruch expects to put what he learned to action this season.
"We can throw and we will," he said.
Which Bruch expects will give him a more balanced offense than last season, a must now that Lakewood will compete in the much-tougher Class 5A, District 10.
On the ground: Senior Torry Nelson (6-foot, 175 pounds) has good speed and will start along with returning starter Armando Andrade, also a speedster who has been clocked at 10.8 in the 100, according to Bruch. Andrade was an honorable mention choice for all-county last year.
Joining the backfield will be junior Aveion Cason, who is faster than the two starters. He ran a 4.4 at Florida State's camp, so fast that he was pulled aside by Bobby Bowden and asked to fill out some paperwork.
Through the air: Waymon Williams (6-2, 175) will start, and has drawn the attention of Miami, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Memphis.
"He runs the option, but also throws the ball very well," said Bruch.
And he has four guys to throw to: sophomore Vito Golson, junior Justin Smith (back from an ACL injury), and seniors Morris Milton and Sam Flowers.
The offensive line is headlined by four-year starter Shawn Wagner (6-3, 280) and senior Jason Bottoms (6-2, 230). Othewise, the line is young and unproven.
Defense, defense: Coaching the defense could be a frustrating task. Nine of 11 starters graduated. Two junior varsity players move up to the defensive line, three return at linebacker but none started a year ago, and the defensive backfield will be all new.
For kicks: Ralph Johnson, 7-for-7 last year on field goals, will handle all the kicking. He hit a 46-yarder last season. Lakewood made the playoffs last year at 4-6. That same record won't cut it this year, as the Spartans district now includes Northeast, Dixie Hollins, Boca Ciega and Gibbs.
AT A GLANCE
Coach: Brian Bruch, fourth season (10-22).
Assistants: Mark Everett, Nate Johnson, Mike McGee, Sam Vinson, Darren DeFreeze, and Rich Pokorney.
Stadium: Lakewood Stadium.
District: Class 5A, District 10.
1994 record: 4-7. Wins: River Ridge 27-24, Kissimmee Gateway 39-0, Clearwater Central Catholic 27-14, Gulf 20-19. Losses: St. Petersburg 9-6, Boca Ciega 16-14, Palmetto 17-0, Osceola 17-13, East Lake 38-14, Gibbs 45-9. Class 4A state playoffs _ Pasco 37-7.
1980: Lost to Plant 28-10
1981: Lost to Naples 26-7
1982: Lost to Naples 24-6
1988: Lost to L'land Kathleen 27-20
1993: Lost to Land O'Lakes 21-7
1994: Lost to Pasco 37-7