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PLANT CITY RAIDERS // Raiders face big district challenge

(ran TP edition)

Even with the opening of the new Durant High School down the road, Plant City second-year coach Todd Long is confident he has the best talent in the Plant City area.

How that talent stacks up against powerhouse district opponents Bradenton Manatee, Bradenton Southeast and Sarasota Riverview will go a long way in determing the team's playoff hopes, but Long is optimistic enough to convince some observers the Raiders will have a good season.

Plant City has a strong, quick and experienced offensive line able to control the flow of action when the Raiders have the ball and Long is counting on it to carry the team early in the season.

Also on the offense is junior running back Wayne Ward, who rushed for 465 yards in 3{ varsity games last year. He played junior varsity the early part of the season.

Ward carried for 97 yards in two quarters of the spring jamboree this year.

"Definitely, the strongest part of the team right now is the offensive line," Long said. "If we get the ball to Ward, they should be able to help him move it down the field."

The Raiders will work out of the trap option offense to take advantage of the quick movement by the line.

Passing game: Juniors Donny Hodges and Leroy Green along with senior Darry Dykstra competed for the starting job at quarterback. Of the three, Long said Hodges is the best passer.

An aerial attack will develop slowly with the Raiders and build up to about 40 percent of the offense by the middle of the season, Long said.

Junior flanker Edmund Ghent is the leader of the Raider receivers. Kenny Boyd, Todd Miller and Xavier Brown will be called on to help with the catching.

Running game: In addition to Ward's success on varsity last season, he rushed for 700 yards in five games with the JV team. He is an honor student and with a savvy for the game, Long said.

Green will help the ground game in the option at quarterback and also at tailback.

Javar Wiggins and George Chase will also be in the backfield and both can help control the clock with consistency.

Offensive line: Senior guard Kyle Bianchi is the leader of the offensive line. Senior Luke Weronik is another key.

Also on that line are juniors Dan Rossiter and Travis Adams. Jason Carlisle and Jeff Simpson are still battling for the starting job at center.

The line averages 252 pounds per player.

"They are quick, strong and aggressive," Long said. "They can also get to the second level on 4-3 defenses to stop linebackers. Their positive attitude also affects the rest of the team."

Defensive line: Honor student and senior class president C. R. Hall is the defensive line leader. He plays smart and encourages his teammates, Long said.

Other down linemen include Troy Berryhill, Mills Cooper and Antwan Fleming. Bianchi and Carlisle will help some by going both ways when needed.

Long describes this unit as an attacking defense, both aggressive and quick.

Linebackers: Dekator Burnett and Antron Robertson will cover tackle to tackle as inside linebackers. Rusty Micher and Roy Johnson will protect the outside.

Robertson is the only senior. The others are juniors.

They are described as both fast and quick with the ability to recover when necessary. Long said all four are very good well-rounded athletes.

Defensive backfield: The Raiders were weak in the secondary last season and were hurt frequently with the pass.

One major change this year is the addition of a coach just for the defensive backs.

Calvin "Pee-Wee" Callins, a former standout player for the Raiders, has taken that job.

Juniors Daniel Roberson and Andrew Jenkins are the cornerbacks. A battle is raging betwen senior Corey Davis and junior Sterling Day for the job at safety.

Long said the secondary will be needed for a winning season in the Raiders' tough district.

Kicking: Josh Kennedy was an All-Western Conference kicker last year and he is back.

He averaged over 40 yards per punt and nailed a 51-yard field goal against Lake Gibson last season.

In this year's spring jamboree, he averaged 44 yards punting.

The coach: Long took over for veteran coach Floyd Kelly last season. The Raiders had some low points but as the season progressed they showed steady improvement.

Outlook: Plant City is hoping its offensive line can spur early success while the other players mature, but they won't have long to grow up: four of its six games are against 1994 playoff teams. If the pass gels by mid-season, the Raiders could end up with a record over .500.


Coach: Todd Long, second season (5-5).

Assistant coaches: Steve Longfellow, Cornelius Bobo, Ken Harlan, Calvin Callins, Henry Foster, Lannis Robinson, James Hargrett, Mark Ackett, Mike Anderson and Clayton Holman.

Colors: Aqua, orange and white.

Stadium: Raider Stadium, One Raider Place, Plant City.

Class: 6A, District 8.

Playoff appearances: 1975.

Last playoff appearance: Class 4A _ Lost to Jefferson 6-0.

1994 results (5-5)

at Bloomingdale 21-6 L

at Leto 10-7 W

Lake Gibson 33-6 W

King 21-20 L

at Winter Haven 24-7 L

Brandon 14-10 L

at East Bay 24-6 W

Chamberlain 17-14 L

Lakeland 19-16 W

at Gaither 29-15 W

Glory Days

Plant City has finished above .500 nine times since 1970, but its only playoff appearance came after a 5-5 effort in 1975. The Raiders, aided by quarterback Jeff Walmsley, fullback Howard Johnson and linebacker Bruce Tanner, faced Jefferson in the regional final. It was driving for a go-ahead touchdown in the first half when Johnson fumbled on the Dragons' 4 yard-line. Jefferson went on to shut out Plant City 6-0.