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Winless Crystal River searches for answers

Crystal River hasn't started winless in its first two games since 1984.

Not many would have guessed the powerhouse Pirates would have fallen so quickly last December.

First was a sloppy preseason classic against Mount Dora. Next came the first loss to Citrus in eight years without a Crystal River point. And then there was the chance to rally from a 17-10 deficit against Central on the Bears' 19, but miscommunication turned a pass play into a run that didn't get it done.

"We messed up that play," Crystal River coach Craig Frederick said. "It was a coaching mistake."

The Pirates have faced many unforeseen obstacles after last year's 7-4 season.

Crystal River lost upcoming star running back Bam Cleveland, who dropped out and got into problems with the law. The state says an athlete must be in school two straight semesters prior to playing, which made him ineligible for the season. Former coach Jere DeFoor decided his time was done and quit in July. Crystal River didn't announce Frederick's hire until one week before school started.

Then came the hurricanes _ weather related and Citrus' upset.

Originally Crystal River was supposed to have two more games, against South Lake and Dunnellon, before playing last year's district champion, South Sumter. But that didn't happen, and now the Pirates are sitting at 0-2 entering tonight's 7:30 game.

Frederick challenged his players in practice this week to get the job done, make plays and start dictating the offense instead of being overpowered by other teams' decisions. South Sumter runs a variation of South Florida's multiple set offense. Defensively, it uses a 50 or 5-2 depending on the play.

"It's a big game," Crystal River junior tackle James Longfellow said. "We hear a lot of the talk that they are bigger than us, stronger than us and how fast they are. We don't have speed in the backfield, but we do have heart and determination."

There are seven more games after this one, but a loss to South Sumter will leave the Pirates 0-3 overall, which hasn't happened since 1982, and 0-2 in the five-team district, which will make it difficult to claim one of the top two playoff spots. Crystal River has missed the postseason just once in the past eight years _ 2002, when it finished 6-4.

Frederick said he knew the start was going to be rough and that he could have used Cleveland as a go-to back. But looking back isn't an option. Longfellow said that now it's about dealing with what they've got. Crystal River is looking for a player or two to carry the team, someone who won't break down when good opponents or even foes that make mistakes come to play.

During last week's 17-10 loss to Central, junior back Seth Metz led the offense with 97 yards on 23 carries. Matt Schrantz had 70 yards, and junior running back Joe Bertine chipped in 20 and the Pirates' lone touchdown this season on a 6-yard run. Matt Pepito, who led the squad with 12 tackles, also kicked a 37-yard field goal to complete the two-game scoring tally. Junior quarterback Kyle Da'Quanna didn't rush for yardage and completed 3 of 11 passes for 24 yards.

Central made more mistakes, but Crystal River couldn't get the job done.

"We need a go-to person," Frederick said. "We need to find them, someone who can make a play."