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SPRINGSTEAD EAGLES // Eagles field a veteran team

(ran PT, CI, HT editions)

The photographer was calling out Springstead's players by position. When he called for the seniors, half of the team piled in front of him.

"You guys are all seniors?" he asked.

Yes, but it was a little deceiving. Springstead isn't overloaded with seniors. But with only a couple of sophomores and a dwindling junior contingent, the Eagles certainly appear veteran heavy.

Springstead does return experience at its skill positions, enough in one case to burden coach Bill Browning with "a good problem for me to have" _ whether to start a solid third-year returner or a very promising newcomer at quarterback.

Competing in preseason were Rich Maher, a solid anchor in the 1993 and 1994 campaigns, and 6-foot-2, 210-pound Wayne Schlobohm, whose size and strong arm made him a candidate to supplant the 5-10, 185-pound Maher. Schlobohm took a few snaps last year as Maher's backup.

Since Browning passed on playing any jamborees or preseason games, he has been able to take his time with the selection, which should be clear in Friday's opener against Central.

Two things about this season have long been clear: Springstead has major weapons in senior tailback Andrae Brooks, whose speed, vision, and strength are uniformly impressive, and in the leg of Schlobohm, who returns as a potential I-A prospect as a punter.

Passing game: Browning said he's impressed with the group of wideouts. Jimmy Vranek and Eugene Hicks return, and will be joined by Brandon Shaw, Corey Hill and others.

Running game: Brooks nearly rushed for 1,000 yards last season in only seven games and is considerably stronger this year, if not necessarily taller (5-8). "I really think he's going to be one of the premier backs in the Tampa Bay area," Browning said of Brooks.

He'll be joined and/or spelled by Anthony Owens, a sophomore who rushed for more than 1,000 yards on the junior varsity last year. Hicks and John Mazzola round out the backfield.

Offensive line: This was a strength for Springstead last season and was expected to be again, but tight end Hector Rodriguez and tackle Josh Miracle moved. Now, only one starter returns: tackle Chris Stoffels. Russ Hough and Mike Stegner have competed at center, and Willie Brown was probable as one of the guards.

Defensive line: Springstead will also miss Rodriguez here, Browning said. Stoffels and Matt Arcorola, who started last year as a freshmen, are back.

Linebackers: Like last year, Browning has a large contingent of aggressive athletes here, including Keith Barnier, Anthony Smith, Brooks, Maher and Mazzola.

Defensive backs: Mark Crotty returns at cornerback, with the other corner up for grabs. Vranek and Hill have battled for the free safety spot.

Kicking game: Schlobohm's booming punts should help Springstead avoid trouble when the offense stalls. He also handles kicking duties.

The coach: Last year was Browning's first losing season at Springstead since 1988, but he said he was impressed with the way the team turned around after an 0-4 start. His son Brandon is a freshman on the Springstead junior varsity, and he also has a daughter, Brooke.

Outlook: There's a plenitude of talent to draw from, and if Springstead can make the most of it, it should be able to take advantage of its lighter district competition and earn a playoff berth.

AT A GLANCE

Coach: Bill Browning, ninth season (42-40).

Assistant coaches: Rick Markford, Pat McCoy, Joel Myers.

Colors: Red, blue and white.

Stadium: Booster Stadium, on campus, 3300 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill.

Class: 5A, District 7.

Playoff history

1993: Lost to Gibbs 36-6

1994 results (4-6)

at Central 15-7 L

at Clearwater 37-14 L

Zephyrhills 3-0 L

Tarpon Springs 36-13 L

Hudson 41-0 W

at Ridgewood 14-7 L

Land O'Lakes 21-7 W

Dunedin 27-26 W

at East Lake 34-9 L

Hernando 27-21 W

Did you know?

Assistant Pat McCoy, who head coach Bill Browning refers to as the team's "assistant head coach," was Central High's first head coach in 1989.

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