TAMPA ó When moving on to your third football program in four seasons, it helps to have a familiar face on the scene to help make things click faster.
For Hillsborough quarterback Charlie Dean, fresh from playing for Tampa Catholic last fall, that person was senior Terence Doston.
"Actually, Iíve played 7-on-7 with Charlie since I was 13," Doston said after the Terriersí preseason kickoff classic Friday against Pinellas County foe East Lake. "As far as chemistry goes, itís been really good."
A dominant first-half performance showed how well the pair were dialed in with each other as they connected six times for 119 yards to help propel Hillsborough to a 29-0 lead. That edge withstood a huge Eagles comeback for a 29-23 victory.
"With Charlie, we have a good pocket passer, he can throw the deep ball accurately, and heís a competitor," Doston said. "Whether itís running, throwing, anything, he just wants to dominate every play."
Dean did that, throwing for 137 yards and a TD to senior Adonis Johnson and scrambling for 41 more yards in the opening 24 minutes. Rushing TDs from Johnson and Dontae Hopkins (89 ground yards for the Terriers) and a blocked punt-turned-TD from sophomore Edson Edmond created the big halftime bulge, aided in part by four East Lake turnovers and a bad punt snap that became a safety.
To the credit of the youthful Eagles, they played textbook ball in the second half ó combining dominant special teams play with nice sustained drives to shave down the Terrier lead.
Junior QB Matt Trotto (10 of 20, 87 yards) slithered effectively in the pocket and rolled out deftly to prolong plays, hitting senior Manny Ortiz for a pair of touchdowns covering 9 and 35 yards while adding a 10-yard read option run to the house. Added to a safety off a poor Hillsborough punt snap, East Lake drew within six and had possession with 4:46 left in the game, turning around an offense that lost 14 yards total in the first half.
A key third-down conversion from back Isaac Gibbs (17 carries, 53 yards) combined with a pass interference flag to move the Eagles to the edge of the red zone, but a fourth-down sack from junior Timothy Lewis crushed East Lakeís comeback with 1:50 left.
"We have maybe three guys that played last year and we have 10 sophomores on our roster," East Lake coach Bob Hudson said. "We told the kids at halftime that this is like a long, intense practice against kids we donít normally play at more speed than we see in practice. We can take a lot from this game. We realized that we can play, we just have to play earlier."
"Our substitution plan was to empty the bench in the second half, and out of the 50-plus players on our roster, we played 45. Thatís not bad," said Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia. "But we canít have a punt blocked, canít have a ball snapped over the punterís head, canít have three major holding calls in the first half. Ö We had six delay-of-game penalties with a play clock on the field.
"Weíll be good. We just have a long way to go and a short time to get there."