Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Secondary Importance Raines, Forrest, Suwannee Rely on DBs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Secondary Importance Raines, Forrest, Suwannee Rely on DBs

Article excerpt

There wouldn't seem to be a common denominator among Raines, Forrest and Live Oak Suwannee. But this week, the three high school football teams have a couple of things in common.

First, all three will travel to the Pensacola area for the second round of the playoffs.

Second, when all three games kick off tonight at 8:30 --- Suwannee at Pace in Class 3A, Raines at Pensacola Escambia and Forrest at Pensacola Pine Forest in 4A --- the play from the secondary could decide each team's fate.

Raines features corner Eugene Oates, who leads the area with 10 interceptions. Oates' development at the corner has been critical to keeping the Vikings defense at a high level.

"He's not a surprise to us," said Raines coach Welton Coffey. "He's been thrown into the mix and responded with a certain amount of confidence. He's become more of a bulldog and stepped up to become the player he needs to be."

Oates' confidence and aggressiveness stems from last season. With Lito Sheppard, now a freshman at the University of Florida, on one side, Oates was a favorite target of quarterbacks. In last year's 26-19 win over Gainesville Eastside in the 4A quarterfinals, Oates was burned early for a pair of touchdowns, but responded at the end with a critical pass break-up and an interception, one of 19 in his career.

"That built my confidence," said Oates, who has attracted interest from Boston College and Pittsburgh. "Lito was one of the top corners, and I was able to hold my own on the other side. I wanted to show that I could play just as well."

Also proving themselves are Forrest's defensive backs. Safety Terry Jackson, a first-year starter, is second in the area with eight picks, while corner Deterrio Greene snagged seven. Factor in corner John Fruge, and the secondary has played a large role in the Rebels' resurgence.

"I believe that when teams in this area throw the ball, they throw out of necessity," said Forrest coach Rob Jennis. …

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