Post Top 25 countdown: No. 20 West Boca Raton
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
by Matt Porter
West Boca Raton running back Eugene Bethea had 952 rushing yards and five touchdowns last season as a junior.
He did that despite being the Bulls' main offensive weapon and the focus of opponents' game plans. He also spent part of the season recovering from a torn bicep that hampered his off-season training.
Now healthy, Bethea has high hopes for his team, which finished 3-7 last season. West Boca might be fighting for a district title in an alternate alignment, but will battle for respect in District 13-7A with powerful Dwyer, Atlantic and Royal Palm Beach.
"I know we're in a tough conference," Bethea said. "But we work hard. We're underrated, so that's a good thing. We can only surprise teams."
Part of the reason for his excitement is fellow senior David Tanis. A 5-foot-10, 180-pound speedster, Tanis starred at Olympic Heights as a sophomore, transferred to West Boca and sat out last season with a serious ankle injury. He'll line up with the 6-1, 216-pound Bethea in a pistol-spread offense, a change from last year's power-I.
"It's going to be hard to stop both of us at the same time," Bethea said. "Double trouble, smash-and-dash, whatever you want to call it."
The Bulls will need both players, plus its already-strong defense, to break through a tough first seven weeks of the season.
On Aug. 31, the Bulls open the season by visiting rival Boca Raton. The week after, powerful Palm Beach Gardens comes to town. Then West Boca is on the road at district foe Lake Worth and always-tough Vero Beach before the most critical stretch of the season: Dwyer, Atlantic and Royal Palm Beach in succession.
"There's no oxygen," West Boca coach Willie Dodaro said. "You're thinking, 'When am I going to come up for air?' You'd better have a double tank to get through that."
Luckily for them, the Bulls have the two backs and that defense, which allowed zero points in a spring jamboree against Miami-Gulliver Prep and Spanish River. West Boca should be especially strong in the second and third levels.
Tanis, who had an interception in the spring jamboree, will play strong safety and be a threat on special teams. Senior tight end/H-back Nick Telford (6-0, 200) will take over for JaWand Blue, who's now at Miami, at middle linebacker. Watch for sophomore defensive end Gerald Ferguson, who is 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. West Boca will try to use him to dominate the edge.
The Bulls don't have great depth - about 35 will make varsity - and many of the best will play defense. Size on the lines is also a concern. "We don't have monsters," Dodaro said.
To combat the numbers crunch, Bethea said, his team is in much better shape. They practice at a faster tempo and focus more on conditioning drills.
"Things were different last year," he said. "I expect us to have a great season this year."