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SOUTH SUMTTER RAIDERS // Raiders must fill some gaps

(ran CI HT editions)

If ever a high school football team needed a few good players to step into leadership roles this fall, it would be South Sumter's Raiders.

Coach Inman Sherman isn't singing the blues, though it would be understandable if he did after losing 19 starters to graduation. The Raiders, who went 10-3 and reached the fourth round of the Class 4A state playoffs in 1994, welcome back offensive guard Danny Wood, linebacker Glenn Williams and strong safety Matt Simmons (moving from end) as their only returning starters.

Graduation also hurt in a less obvious though equally painful way. Sherman said five players eligible to come out for the team chose not to, evidently feeling the Raiders won't contend in Class 4A, District 7 where they now reside with Mount Dora, Tavares, South Lake and Eustis.

The Raiders remain in the Gulf Coast Conference, however.

Passing game: Tristan Harrison played behind Clint Hart at quarterback for two years and will take over in the power-I offense. Simmons saw some action at wideout last year and caught 20 passes for 540 yards, so Harrison will have at least one receiver with experience.

Running game: Williams is the fullback, with Timmy McCook, K. C. McMullen and Adrian Johnson alternating at tailback. McCook got in some playing time with the varsity last year, carrying 13 times for 67 yards. But the group is trying to replace Tony Gavin, who had 666 yards in regular-season action and more than 1,000 yards counting the 1994 playoffs.

Offensive line: Wood is the strong point at one guard. Greg Burns and Willis Forinash are expected to be the tackles. The center will be James Gross.

Defensive line: Jimmy Green will man one of the tackles in the "50 front" alignment, but players battled for the other spots through fall camp.

Linebackers: Williams brings Sherman some piece of mind as one linebacker. Adam Burke, a second-year player who has shown great improvement, appears set as the other backer.

Defensive backs: Simmons has the strong safety spot locked up, but a weak safety is needed. Cornerbacks Roderick McMullen and Leon Williams impressed Sherman early in camp and could win starting jobs.

Kicking game: Burns will come off the line to handle placekicking chores with an accurate and strong leg, Sherman said.

The coach: Sherman's ability to find answers to most problems is attested by the 76-43 record he has compiled in 11 seasons as head coach at South Sumter.

Outlook: Sherman has been worried about conditioning. That, coupled with inexperience, could jeopardize the Raiders' playoff streak of three consecutive years. But expect them to have a strong say in the district race.

AT A GLANCE

Coach: Inman Sherman, 12th season (76-43).

Assistant coaches: Todd Wertenberger, Chuck Sullivan, Keith Hileman, Mark Freier.

Colors: Red, black and white.

Stadium: Raider Field, on campus. Take State Road 48 to U.S. 301 and turn left; go to first street (Park Drive) and turn left; field is two-tenths of a mile on the right.

Class: 4A, District 7.

1994 record: 10-3.

Playoff history

1969: Lost to Alachua Santa Fe 20-12.

1992: Beat G'ville Eastside 12-0; lost to Pasco 37-0.

1993: Beat Starke Bradford 16-12; beat Osceola 27-16; lost to Jax Bolles 34-19.

1994: Beat Sparr North Marion 38-27; beat Hernando 26-7; beat Jax Bolles 33-6; lost to Alachua Santa Fe 32-20.

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