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Bulldogs look to regain bark

(ran PC edition)

Little went right for Zephyrhills as it went 3-6 last season. This season, two players hold the key to bouncing back.

In the past two seasons, Zephyrhills has lost a 1,000-yard passer and a 1,000-yard rusher. This year, the Bulldogs may have one of each.

Strong-armed Brett Cimorelli could be the first Bulldog quarterback since Jamie Sullivan to throw for 1,000 yards, and tailback Terry Allen, who was on the verge of rushing for more than 1,000 yards a second time before an ankle injury curtailed his season, could surpass that coveted mark this fall.

Sullivan's transfer to arch-rival Pasco last summer was a bad omen in what turned into a 3-6 debacle for Zephyrhills. Things got even worse with injuries and departures that reduced the roster from 35 to 25 players by November.

"That was the single worst thing that happened to us," Zephyrhills assistant coach Chris Bounnell said of Sullivan's transfer. "It ruined our continuity."

With returning seniors Cimorelli, Allen and linemen Todd Black and Craig Merson, Bounnell said this year's team, which along with the county's other seven teams begins practice Monday, has the potential to return to contention.

"We're looking for team cohesion this year," Bounnell said. "We sort of had a lack of it last year."

Allen, who rushed for 1,226 yards as a sophomore, and Cimorelli may be more productive this year if sophomore receiver Mike Moody is the real deal. Moody is sure to see plenty of balls thrown his way in preseason practices.

"He's got all the athletic ability in the world," Bounnell said of Moody, who started in the secondary as a freshman. "I think he's going to be one of the young kids to watch on our team."

Runnin' Pirates

So what if defending Class 4A, District 8 and Sunshine Athletic Conference champion Pasco lost a pair of 1,000-yard runners. As usual, another Pirate running back should emerge from camp as one of the county's best ballcarriers.

Breon Davis and Kenny Roberts, who also is competing at quarterback, are next in line to take the torch that in recent years has been carried by Ron Croson, Norman Graham, Cleo Stinyard and Troy Hambrick.

"We're trying to rebuild our backfield, obviously," Pasco coach Ricky Thomas said, alluding to the graduation of Croson and Graham, who combined for 2,289 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Daviscould be "the catalyst for our backfield," said Thomas, who last fall kicked Davis off the team for unspecified rules violations.

"Without question, the guy's always had the ability," the coach said. "What has been lacking is the maturity level. We're looking for him not only to be productive on the football field, but to be a productive citizen because he's a year's step away from the real world."

Power Gators

Land O'Lakes begins work on its own revamped backfield Monday behind what is shaping up to be a powerful offensive line. Anchored by all-conference Mark Sopcik, that unit is expected to include returning tackle Charles Tipton, Jimmy Tuttle, Teddy Meade and Johnny Wild.

Fullback Jason Carpenter, who started at linebacker last season, will team up with shifty tailback Godfrey Pestana and quarterback Kurt Shafer on the first unit. All three saw substantial playing time last season.

Land O'Lakes coach John Benedetto liked what he saw of his starting offense in spring practice and could not contain his enthusiasm in watching Pestana run.

"I've got the best running back in the area," Benedetto said. Newborn 'Cats

Wesley Chapel will be bereft of seniors. But former Ridgewood coach John Castelamare feels there are enough talented underclassmen for the Wildcats to sneak up on anyone who takes them lightly.

While Wesley Chapel goes through its growing pains this season, the coaching staff will keep a watchful eye on the progress of a handful of players who keyed Weightman's run to last year's Pasco County Middle School Athletic Conference championship.

That group includes Tyrone Tomlin, Greg Harrison, Chris Roberts and former Weightman Wildcat Spencer Honeycutt, who last year played for the Zephyrhills junior varsity.

"That whole bunch is good. They're all good athletes," Castelamare said.

Beginning Monday, they'll have to start living up to their coach's assessment.