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T H E L E D G E R • T h u r s d a y , A u g u s t 2 3 , 2 0 1 2 • W W W . theledger . C O M

| PREPS 2012 TEAM George Jenkins Haines City Lake Region Lakeland Ridge Community


CLASS 7A-5 | LAKELAND | GEORGE JENKINS | HAINES CITY | LAKE REGION | RIDGE COMMUNITY FINISH POSTSEASON 0-10 — 2-8 — 5-5 — 13-1 State Semifinals 7-4 Regional Quarterfinals

Quick Hits Ridge Community lost three of five offensive lineman and its starting running back, Anthony Parnell … Jalen Odom, a lefty sophomore quarterback for George Jenkins, was at Lakeland High School last year. He didn’t play for the Dreadnaughts because he was ineligible due to an out-of-zone transfer issue. Odom has always been zoned for Jenkins. … Lake Region quarterback LT Thompson is just as talented on the defensive side of the ball as he is under center. During one 7-on-7, he had a few picks as a corner. Coach Steve Reynolds won’t use him on both sides of the ball, however. … The battle for quarterback at Lakeland went deep into the summer with Isiah Walker and Aaron Johnson competing. … Haines City junior Dacorius Law rushed for 504 yards in five games last year before being sidelined with a knee injury for the remainder of the season.

There Are Questions on Offense, but Dreadnaughts’ Defense Stands Tall | LAKELAND DREADNAUGHTS |


Head Coach: Bill Castle (37th season, 362-77). Coaching Staff: Dan Talbot AHC/DL, Jason Butler DC/ LB, John Flath OL, Will Bahler WR, Brent Harbin RB, George Williams Jr. CB, David Mangrum S, Deaubrey Devine LB, Kendrick Stewart DT. 2011 Record: 13-1. Last Time in Playoffs: 2011, lost in state semifinals to First Coast, 24-14. Home Field: Bryant Stadium, Lakeland. 2012 Schedule (All games begin at 7 p.m.) Aug. 24 at Lake Gibson (Preseason) Aug. 31 vs. St. Cloud Sept. 7 vs. Tenoroc Sept. 14 vs. Flanagan Sept. 21 vs. Haines City Sept. 28 vs. Bartow Oct. 5 at Lake Region Oct. 12 vs. Hialeah Oct. 19 vs. George Jenkins Nov. 2 at Ridge Community Nov. 9 at Kathleen

LAKELAND | Bill Castle said he doesn’t have a playmaker this year. He thinks his offense will have a tough time getting going, mainly because he lost some big offensive lineman. Castle also is thinking of implementing a two-quarterback system because, through the spring and summer, there wasn’t a front runner between two players battling for the spot. “We’ll be decent, but we have so many unknowns on offense,” Castle said. “Our expectations are really high for our team because of what we’ve done in the past. But truth is, this is a new year and all those games won in the past won’t help this team a lick.” P h o o e y, B i l l C a s t l e . Phooey. Sure, there’s no standout skill player now. But there wasn’t last year at the start of the season either until Ricquan Southward, now at Ohio State, emerged to put on a show every Friday night. Lakeland didn’t have a pure quarterback last year, either, because the team’s starter had to sit out the entire season because of eligibility issues. But in rolled Raheeme Dumas, a cornerback who barely got any reps during the offseason un-


GUARDIANS AT THE GATE: seniors Devon Denson, from left, T.J. Simmons and Jalen Stevenson lead what should be a stingy defense for the Dreadnaughts. der center, to lead the Dreadnaughts to a state semifinal showing and a 13-1 season. Point is, Lakeland always seems to find a standout to carry it offensively. Whether it’s Isiah Walker, a senior, or Aaron Johnson, a sophomore, who takes over at the quarterback spot this year

remains to be seen. Castle won’t name the starter now and might still use the preseason classic against Lake Gibson on Friday as another tryout. “It’s going to be a really good test against Gibson and not only for our skill players on offense,” Castle said. “They have a quarterback who is really proven,

Bolts Fishing for Bigger Results




HAINES CITY players, from left, Eric Goll, Dacorius Law, Ryan Pynes and Tyler Wilson will try to return the Hornets to their winning ways.

Hornets Searching for Right Track



HAINES CITY | Haines City football coach Pete Barber isn’t blowing smoke at anyone. He knows the Hornets have been chugging down unfamiliar lines, and he’s looking to put the program back on track. “If you look down the (railroad) tracks you see consistency,” Barber said. “It’s nice, it’s level. All the boards are the same width apart. We haven’t done that for a while. We were solid every yea r w it h 7- 3 a nd 8 -2 records.” The Hornets should encounter several unfriendly junctions lurking along the rails. Five of its first seven games are against 2011 playoff teams. “That’s some tough sledding,” Barber said. “It’s the toughest schedule in Polk County.” In order to load up and win each stop, the Hornets will fuel their offense with heavy lumps of junior running back Dacorius Law. “He’ll be our featured back,” Barber said. “If we can give it to him 25 or 30 times a game, that’s what we are going to do. We’re going to be a runheavy team with play-action and screens.” Law won’t need a cowcatcher to move bodies out of his path. Barber feels the Hor-

nets’ offensive line is deep featuring Tyler Wilson, Eric Goll, Alex Guy, Eddie Yeary, Grayson Moore and Tyce ­Nagel, with Jaderius Baxter at tight end. “This is the first year in while that we may be very decent up front,” Barber said. “That could be the key to our offense and the power behind the train.” When the ball is thrown, quarterback Ryan Pynes will be looking for his “go-to guy,” junior wide receiver Jack Tisdale. “It’s the first time we’ve had a returning quarterback in a while,” Barber said. If an obstacle appears on Haines City’s tracks, it may be injuries. Like last season, the Hornets only expect to dress about 30 players. “Some weeks, if the wind blew really good, we’d get about 32,” Barber said, adding the lack of depth crippled the Hornets in the second half last year in tight games against Winter Haven, Lakeland and Lake Region Christopher Benitez is considered the precious cargo. The senior handles the punting, kickoffs and place-kicking duties. “If we lose him, we lose three people,” Barber said. “It’s protect the kicker at all costs. He can switch that field position.”

and he’s got really great control of a solid football team.” And that’s where you’ll see whether Lakeland’s strength — its defense — is really its strength. Lake Gibson has two solid skill players at the wide receiver and running back spots and Trey Congdon, a junior

who threw for 1,866 yards last season. The Dreadnaughts return Jalen Stevenson and Devon Denson on their defensive line and T.J. Simmons at the linebacker spot. Those three were instrumental in helping Lakeland limit opponents to 179 yards of offense per game last season, including just 86 on the ground, and 11 points per game. Stevenson had 25 sacks to lead the unit, breaking the school record. Those numbers, Denson said, don’t mean anything now. “People might say we’re good defensively, but we still have to prove it. We have to go out there and show everybody that we’re good, not just talk about it,” said Denson, who also will play on the offensive line this season. Castle said he won’t know how good his players will be on offense this season until they start playing, but if the spring game against Lakewood was a ny indication, he shouldn’t be too worried because his defense helped turn the game in Lakeland’s favor. Lakewood, a team with some major Division I players on its offense, was expected to win, but Simmons blocked a field goal and Stevenson had a sack and an interception.

Head Coach: Pete Barber, (5th season, 13-27). Coaching Staff: Pat Herrington DC/DB, Olin Gee LB, Bill Brown OL/DL, Greg Pritchett RB, Terrance Comer WR, Billy Deeds QB. 2011 Record: 2-8. Last time in playoffs: 2009, lost first round to Orlando Edgewater 29-8. Home Field: Joe Stangry Stadium, Haines City.

It takes strong line to land big fish, and Ridge Community is shoring up its offensive line in hopes of landing a few more than last season — especially the big ones. The Bolts were 7-4 in 2011, and all four losses came at the hands of playoff teams. “Last year, we were runnersup. So this year, we’re fishing to be champions of the division and get a little better seed going into the playoffs,” Ridge Community Head Coach Richard Tate said. Ridge’s offensive line was decimated by graduation, losing four starters. “All those guys we lost were quality guys,” Tate said. “That’s where we have to start first. We have to get our offensive line and try to get our running back situation squared away.” A nt hony Pa r nel l, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year, also is gone. But Tate feels he has the ultimate triple-threat replacement in Shykeem Pitts, who will be baiting defenses from running back, quarterback and wide receiver this fall. “The way I see it, every fish is lunch,” Pitts said. “So every game is more lunch and more

lunch all the way to the playoffs.” The Bolts plan on running multiple offenses, flashing the spread with some wildcat looks, but the I-formation will be the staple cast. “We’re going to run the football. That’s what we’ve done, and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” Tate said. Defensively, the Bolts’ tackle box is full, returning eight star ters including senior strong safety J.T. Harwell. “We’re looking to capitalize on everything we can get on defense, from takeaways to three-and-outs and just shut them down,” Harwell said. “When I’m going after a ball carrier, I feel like a bear in a river.” Special teams sunk the Bolts’ efforts more than once last year. In the playoffs, ­O sceola ran the opening kickoff back for a score, and Fort Meade beat Ridge on an 80-yard touchdown return with two minutes remaining. “So I know the importance of special teams,” Tate said. “The key is our defense and getting started quick. … They could get us some games early and get us into a streak, and then the offense can catch up.”

Head Coach: Richard Tate (8th season, 40-33). Coaching Staff: Robert Tate RB, Cory Johns QB, Jared Mitchell WR, Matt Sparrowhawk OL, Brad Pardon DL, Paul Freeman DB. 2011 Record: 7-4. Last time in playoffs: 2011, lost to Kissimmee Osceola 13-7 (OT). Home Field: Ridge Community Field, Davenport. 2012 Schedule (All games start at 7 p.m.) Aug. 24 vs. Winter Haven (Preseason) Aug. 31 vs. Tenoroc Sept. 7 at Mulberry Sept. 14 vs. Kathleen Sept. 21 at Auburndale Sept. 28 vs. Fort Meade Oct. 5 at Haines City Oct. 12 at Lake Gibson Oct. 19 vs. Lake Region Oct. 26 at George Jenkins Nov. 2 vs. Lakeland


2012 Schedule (All games start at 7 p.m.) Aug. 24 at Frostproof (Preseason) Aug. 31 vs. Liberty Sept. 7 vs. Winter Haven Sept. 14 at Fort Meade Sept. 21 at Lakeland Sept. 28 vs. Kathleen Oct. 5 vs. Ridge Community Oct. 12 at Lake Wales Oct. 26 at Lake Region Nov. 2 vs. George Jenkins Nov. 9 vs. Mulberry


RIDGE COMMUNITY seniors, from left, Michael Horton, an offensive lineman, Shykeem Pitts, a wide receiver/cornerback, Mike Hall, a cornerback, and J.T. Harwell, a strong safety, want better results than just a district runner-up finish and a playoff loss.