(ran PT, CI, HT editions)
The losses were not anticipated, and they could prove costly for Zephyrhills High. But nobody on the team is buying that excuse.
Between the spring and fall semesters, Zephyrhills lost seven contributing players, most of whom played on the line. The players, who coach Tom Fisher refused to name, left the program for various reasons, and left the Bulldogs searching for replacements.
"That's going to be interesting for us, to see how the new guys step in," Fisher said. "A lot of the starters didn't come back, but we are lucky to have three returning starters on the line and a tight end. Plus, we got a transfer student from Alabama and he will help out at center and snapping the ball."
But behind the line, the Bulldogs look solid. Senior quarterback Shawn Daughtery, a 6-foot-4 lefty with a strong arm, junior running back Mike Barber, who gained 800 yards as a sophomore last year, and giant tight end B.
J. Booker (6-6, 220) will have to carry the load.
The biggest concern, spawned by the departed non-seniors, is depth. Fisher said the small numbers have changed his approach to practice for fear of injury.
Starting the season well will dictate Zephyrhills' season tally. The Bulldogs open with five of their first seven games, including the first three, at home. Key games against district rivals Pasco and Jesuit also will be played at Bulldog Stadium. Zephyrhills will finish with three straight on the road.
Passing game: Daughtery is brewing with confidence. As one of 13 seniors, he will need a big year if the Bulldogs are to go anywhere in a tough district. Despite the losses on the line, Daughtery still has his own trump card in Booker.
Clearly taller than most defensive backs , Booker, who also is a basketball player, has soft hands and a tremendous vertical leap. In Daughtery's eyes, he's a perfect target.
Other wide receivers who could factor include Damien Pickett, Shay Daughtery, Rick Moore, Demetrius McKay and Chris Jones.
Running game: Fullback Ethan Rouse will be expected to help open holes for Barber, who will start at tailback. The two could combine for a strong season.
Offensive line: Alabama transfer Brad Gravat will fill a void immediately at center and as long snapper. But it is on the shoulders of seniors T. J. Fiscarelli and Clarence Roshell that the success of the line rests.
Defensive line: Depleted numbers translates into dual roles. In other words, Fiscarelli and Roshell have to be ready to play both ways, often.
Linebackers: Limoge and Damien Bennett will lead what appears to be a thin linebacking corps. Fisher said Limoge plays a lot stronger and nastier than his 5-7, 180-pound frame would indicate.
Senior Michael Barnard and junior William Osteen should also get playing time.
Secondary: Ask the Bulldogs where their strength lies, and a consensus says the secondary. With everybody returning from last year's main defensive squad, including starters Pickett and Josh Willis. Barber could see time at strong safety and McKay's speed makes him a shoo-in at one of the corner spots.
Kicking: Seniors Shay and Shawn Daughtery should get the nods as the starting placekicker and punter respectively. Daughtery also is the quarterback, fullback Rouse and linebacker Bennett also could emerge as punters.
The coach: Fisher, in his seventh year, said his job will not be much different with the losses up front. "As a coach, you can't allow those things to change your game plan," he said. "You have to make sure your team does the things it can do well."
Outlook: In a district that includes Pasco, Seminole's Osceola, and Tampa's Jesuit and Robinson, Zephyrhills has to play confidently.
AT A GLANCE
Coach: Tom Fisher, seventh year (36-27).
Assistant coaches: Chris Bounell, Gary Butler, Bruce Cimorelli, Phil Pignatano, Billy Garcia, John McDougall, Bruce Smith.
Colors: Black and orange.
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium, on County Road 54, Zephyrhills.
Class: 4A, District 9.
1989: Lost to Baker Co. 24-7
1993: Lost to Osceola 35-3
1994 results (6-4)
at Ridgewood 7-6 W
Pasco 27-14 L
at Springstead 3-0 W
Hudson 48-0 W
at River Ridge 20-17 W
at Hernando 21-5 L
Dunnellon 14-7 W
at Central 28-27 L
at Pasco 46-7 L
Land O'Lakes 27-17 W
Did you know?
Quarterback Shawn Daughtery and his brother Shay Daughtery will be responsible for the Bulldogs kicking game. Shawn is projected as the starting punter while Shay will be the placekicker.