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ST. PETERSBURG CATHOLIC // Barons now have a prize to chase

(ran CTI LTCTNT)

The question is one that was hard for Chris Wiand to answer, even if it was he posing the question to himself: How do you motivate high school kids to chase the rainbow when there is nothing at the end of it?

With an independent schedule, there really was no answer for the St. Petersburg Catholic assistant coach and former player. Which may help explain the level of mediocrity the Barons acheived the past two seasons with records of 4-6 and 3-5.

But this year, the pot of gold has been returned to the end of that rainbow. The Barons return to district play with a new coach in Dan Mancuso, and with 19 seniors on the 24-player roster..

"We've got a goal this year," said Wiand. "In the past, there was nothing to shoot for. We could go 10-0, but the season was still going to end after the last game."

Mancuso, an assistant last season, plans on building the program for the future as opposed to playing season by season, but won't use that as an excuse for his first season.

"We're going to push to be competitve and to build a respectable program," he said, "and we plan to start building that respect this year."

They may be picking a perfect year.

On the ground: According to Wiand, "We will have the fastest backfield easily in the last 10 years."

Seniors Todd Bialous (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) and Jeff McConaughey (5-8, 175) return as starters, with McConaughey as the fullback in the Barons' Power-I attack. Sophomore Casey Moore (6-0, 195) will see some time, as will Jim Nguyen, who may be the fastest of the lot with 4.5 speed.

Expect the backs to run behind senior left tackle Bruce Zaniol (6-3, 230), a Division I prospect according to Wiand. Bobby Lee (6-4, 205), Chris Hannigan (6-2, 200) and Rick Lopez (5-10, 195) are the other senior starters on the line. The slowest starter runs a 5.3.

Through the air: David Condron (6-2, 185) returns as the starter, and the offense has been shaped more to his game. This will be the first time in four seasons that St. Pete Catholic has had the same quarterback in back-to-back seasons. Nguyen, Andrew DeLucia (4.5 speed) and Keith Hill (6-2, 170) will be the targets.

Defense, defense: Most of the offensive players will pull double duty on defense. Cornerback Ed Herbst (5-6, 145) is the smallest of the Barons, but might be the hardest hitter. Senior Jason Strouss will also play cornerback.

Just for kicks: Mario Basta will do the plcekicking, and Fred Piccolo will do the punting. Wiand on the Barons' abundance of speed this season: "In the nine years I've been here, we've always had two or three guys a year that ran in the middle 4s. This year, we have six or seven. And some can run 4.4s on good days.

AT A GLANCE

Coach: Dan Mancuso, first year.

Assistants: Chris Wiand, Tim Condron, Carlos Pinto, Brad Smith, Mike Lynch and Jeff Ehlert.

Nickname: Barons.

Stadium: Joe Paul Stadium.

District: Class 3A, District 5.

1994 record: 3-5. Wins: Berkeley Prep 17-0, Florida Air 31-14, Clearwater Central Catholic 18-0. Losses: Temple Heights 26-10, Northside Christian 25-0, Shorecrest 43-0, Eatonville Wymore 14-12, Lakeland Sante Fe 20-19.

Playoff history

1977: Beat Ft. Myers 26-12; lost to

Bartow 35-0.

1991: Lost to Vero Beat St.

Edward's 34-7.

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