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Challenges go beyond strategy

Coaching isn't all Xs and Os.

You have to deal with parents.

Make schedules.

Raise money.

Some coaches paint the field. Others paint the locker room.

And, of course, all must find ways to keep their players focused. Especially when things are rough.

"It's easy to be a coach when everything is good," Citrus offensive coordinator Jonny Bishop said.

At Citrus this fall, there have been rocky times.

One day before playing rival Crystal River, two key two-way starters were suspended. The shellshocked Hurricanes lost to the Pirates 50-8.

Other games thought to be winnable turned into defeats.

Citrus hoped to contend for a playoff berth (and genuinely thought it was possible), but now finds itself on the outside looking in.

So where does that leave the coaching staff?

Fighting to keep things afloat, that's where. And if you think that's easy, you're dead wrong. The attention span of a teenager comes and goes. When titles and playoff spots are on the line, keeping players in line and set on the task at hand isn't that difficult. When losses mount, it can be impossible.

When Citrus lost to Hernando four weeks ago, the Hurricanes knew their chances of making the playoffs were slim. That would have been the time to fold. Instead, they responded with two wins in three games. The victories came against lesser opponents, but one has to commend them for sticking with it.

Citrus is 3-5 with two games to play

A win tonight against unbeaten Wesley Chapel certainly would brighten things.

"The kids are excited about playing a real quality team," Hurricanes head coach Larry Bishop said. "We want to see where we stand."

For the seniors, time is running out. For those who will return in 2004, the final two games are important. Citrus hopes to finish strong, not only to gauge its progress this season but to gain momentum for the next.

"It would give us something to build on," Larry Bishop said.

TOUGH TASK: Hernando faces one stern test in South Sumter, which has been to the state quarterfinals each of the past six seasons. A loss will eliminate Hernando from postseason contention; a win guarantees only a three-way shootout (if Crystal River also wins) to determine the district champion and runner-up and the playoff berths that go with them.

Hernando has to stay healthy. The Leopards practiced without seven starters in the days leading up to the Crystal River game, and standout running backs Rod Roberts (ankle) and Jagren Castillo (hamstring) have battled injuries throughout the season.

_ Frank Pastor contributed to this report.