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Competition on for quarterback at area schools

PLANT CITY - After the 2011 football season, Plant City High, Durant and Strawberry Crest were faced with the same question: Who would play quarterback in 2012? Gone were Plant City's Bennie Coney, Durant's Nick Fabrizio and Strawberry Crest's Trey Van de Grift. Coney (2,300 passing yards in 2011) moved on to the University of Cincinnati. Fabrizio (more than 2,000 all-purpose yards) went to Navy, and Van de Grift, a junior, shifted to Durant. As the first days of the 2012 fall practice began in early August, a quick tour of the three eastern schools revealed some healthy competitions for the starting quarterback positions.
Plant City High Perhaps the biggest shoes to fill literally and figuratively are Coney's. At 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, Coney is the type of athlete who rarely shows up on a high school doorstep one who keeps opponents off balance, because he's an equal threat to run or throw. The incumbent appears to be Landon Galloway, who just happened to be Coney's leading receiver in 2011. Galloway, a junior, caught 32 passes for 564 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, a campaign he said has made him a better quarterback. "Playing receiver helped me read defenders and defenses," Galloway said. "It also helped me know where receivers like to have balls thrown to them." Galloway didn't get a lot of reps at quarterback in 2011, but he saw enough action to keep his attention. "I pretty much had mop-up duty for [Coney] at the ends of games," he said. Galloway's stiffest competition early in camp is Nick Rodriguez, a left-handed senior who took off his junior football season to concentrate on baseball. If the starting job does go to Galloway, Rodriguez will become a receiver, and vice versa. Strawberry Crest High The transfer of quarterback Trey Van de Grift to Durant opened the door for sophomores Tristan Hyde and Austin Carswell, which is just fine with them and first-year head coach John Kelly. "I wish Trey the best, I really do," Kelly said. "I understand that everybody has to do what they feel is best for them. "Now I'm excited to have the opportunity to work with these two sophomores. We can really focus on their development." Hyde had the edge as camp opened, but Carswell was pushing his teammate. "Competition makes everybody better," Hyde said. "I'd say everything is working out well." Both Hyde and Carswell did say they hoped Kelly, in his first year of coaching, will stay at Strawberry Crest throughout their careers. "We've had a different coach every year three in the four years since Strawberry Crest has opened and we think some stability would help," Hyde said. Durant High School Van de Grift's switch from Strawberry Crest to Durant doesn't mean he will simply walk into the starting job, head coach Mike Gottman said. Senior Zach Stephenson has been a loyal Cougar, waiting his turn behind Fabrizio in 2011. Stephenson, no doubt, knows the system far better and he isn't going to just hand over the keys to Van de Grift. "The starter is up in the air," Gottman said on the first day of fall practice. "It will be a good competition. I think the competition will make them both better and make us better as a team."

To suggest a team or player for Scott to profile, email him at scottpurks@gmail.com.
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