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Tigers' mantra explains success

Running back Aaron Fryer stood on Jesuit's football field and recited a little saying, as if it was a religious or fraternal thing.

Then offensive lineman Drew Ramm rolled it off his tongue, explaining what Tiger football is about:

"Coaches who care about coaches.

"Coaches who care about players.

"Players who care about players.

"Players who care about coaches."

Of course every team has rallying quotes, but at Jesuit _ and there really is no other way to describe it _ this saying, prominently printed in the locker room, is a way of life.

"It's never about one person here," said Ramm, the Tigers' starting center. "It's about all of us making it one."

And it works.

Jesuit, despite not always having the most speed or brawn, wins. In the 1990s, the Tigers had the best record among Hillsborough County schools (86-27), and the past two seasons, they've gone 22-3 _ and counting.

Friday night, Jesuit plays in a Class 3A, second-round playoff game against Bartow, a 9-2 squad that played a tough schedule.

Jesuit, however, is thinking about taking care of its own business.

"We need to do the things that we do well, and that means playing solid defense, having a strong kicking game and staying consistent on offense," Jesuit coach Dominick Ciao said.

In other words, the Tigers (11-0) need to grind out yards on the ground and control the clock, just like they've done every Friday night this season.

So if Fryer (1,166 rushing yards) and bruising fullback A.J. Schneider gain 3.5 yards per carry, then Jesuit will be in business.

Fryer, who had 201 yards last week against Zephyrhills, is expected to get the bulk of the handoffs, which is fine with him, "as long as that's what will help the team the most."

Go figure.

"After last season, coach Ciao told me I was going to get a lot more carries," said Fryer, a junior. "So I worked real hard in the offseason and over the summer to get ready.

"I wanted to get in the best shape possible, and be as prepared as I possibly could."

Some wondered how Fryer would bounce back from a torn knee ligament suffered midway through last season.

Well, no need to worry.

"I'm 100 percent," he said. "I feel as strong, or stronger than ever."

That's good news, because without him at full strength in last year's Class 3A state quarterfinal against Titusville Astronaut, Jesuit finished with minus-8 total yards and minus-43 rushing.

Final score: Astronaut 38, Jesuit 0.

"After that, we all told ourselves that if the score was going to be 38-0, it was going to be with us winning," Fryer said. "We wanted to get another chance at Astronaut, but they aren't in the playoffs."

So the focus is on Bartow, and a victory would mean Jesuit will accomplish another of its little annual sayings.

"Before the season we have a goal of practicing on Thanksgiving morning with our football family," Fryer said. "And once we're done with our football family, then we go home and have Thanksgiving with our own families.

"If that's the way Thanksgiving works out for us, then we know we're still alive in the playoffs."

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