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FALCONS COACH HITS GROUND RUNNING

As you stand on Pinehurst and look out across the yellowing Dunedin practice field, you can almost hear the school's famous bagpipes playing. Then you see them coming: red jerseys, white jerseys, jogging across the football field, around the weight room and on the way down a hill to another workout. Leading the way? William Wallace! Wait ... nope, that's Max Smith. You can say this about the first-year Dunedin football coach: he preaches a fast pace, then sets one.

"It's all about setting an upbeat tempo," said Smith, who bounds across the field from station to station, clapping and exhorting the Falcons, 30 strong or so.

He's not thrilled with the numbers, but realizes a couple of bad seasons and constant turnover has clipped the Falcons' wings. Smith, inset, is the third coach in three years and is trying to turn around a team that has gone 3-17 in that span.

The Falcons have zero depth and could have as many as six players going both ways this season. But there are bright spots - and more talent that Smith envisioned.

Quarterback Anthony Diviney is entering his second year as a starter, he has experienced offensive linemen in Corey Francisco, Yanni Marangos and Dylan Gilroy - maybe the team's best quality, Smith says - and big targets to throw to in Michael Singer and Domenic James.

Dunedin, though, needs a top running back to emerge, some big bodies to show up to create some depth, and the defense to round into form.

"The only thing I ask of (defensive coordinator Mike Anderson) is that they tackle," Smith said.

The Falcons play Northeast in their spring game May 27. Last year, they beat Lakewood and used the momentum to create some expectations.

Diviney said a repeat would be nice, but the Falcons need no convincing this time around.

"Win or lose," he said, "we're going in right direction."

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Numbers game

Northside Christian coach Andre Dobson said he has only 17 players out this spring and is hoping for at least 25 in the fall, but depth will be a huge issue.

One bright spot: offensive lineman Patrick Tomlin.

Dobson said the 6-foot-3, 295-pound three-year starter is already receiving some Division I-A interest from schools like FIU and USF.

* * *

Running man wanted

Tarpon Springs is hoping a No. 1 running back emerges this spring, as well as a solid and rebuilt offensive line, but coach Atif Austin is high on his passing combinations of quarterback Louis Pappas to Runaldo Wright or Kenyatta Merriex. Both wide receivers had more than 500 yards receiving last year.

* * *

Wasting no time

Admiral Farragut has the earliest spring game this season and will play at Braden River at 7 tonight.

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