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Jackets Beat Andy Jax, Championship Claimed, December 13, 1928
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Leesburg Yellow Jackets vs. Land O' Lakes Gators, High School Football Game
Long Time Coming For Leesburg
The Last Time Leesburg Was In The State Playoffs Was 1971.
November 27, 1992|By Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff
Updated: Monday, July 13, 2015, 2:55 p.m.
LEESBURG — Let's see, 1971. The Vietnam War still was going on. Richard Nixon was in the White
House. Leesburg High School was in the football state playoffs.
Twenty-one years later and Leesburg is back in the playoffs, the first time since that '71 season. A lot
has changed, but one thing remains the same - there will be a Rector wearing No. 64 for the Yellow
Jackets when they play in the regional tonight at 7:30 against Land O' Lakes.
Charlie Rector was an offensive guard and defensive end on that '71 team. Son, Clay, is an offensive
guard and defensive end on this year's team. Like his dad, Clay is No. 64.
''I'm like a little kid,'' Charlie Rector said. ''I'm just thrilled to death that my son is able to participate on a
team that won district for the first time since the team that I was on.
''I know most the boys on the team, most of them have been to my house at one time or another. I
couldn't be happier for them.''
Charlie Rector may form a link to the past, but it is the future that concerns the Yellow Jackets, the
immediate future to be exact. They want to get further than that '71 team, which lost its regional game
to Haines City.
Tonight, ninth-ranked Leesburg (9-1), begins what its players hope is a journey to the state
championship when they play the Gators (9-1) in the Class AAAA, Region 4 game.
''There is a lot of enthusiasm,'' Leesburg coach Ed Hoffman said. ''There is a lot of looking forward to
seeing how far we can go.''
Leesburg may be looking forward, but it is not looking past a Land O' Lakes team that may be the best
in the 16 years John Benedetto has been the coach.
But this also is Leesburg's best team, possibly since that 1971 season. Leesburg's program has
come full circle since then, going through a lull in the 1980s when the team went 0-10 in 1982, had
back-to-back 2-8 seasons in 1984 and '85, and went 1-9 in 1981 and 1987.
The Yellow Jackets have resurrected the program with one of the state's most exciting offensive
players in tailback Oran Singleton and one of the state's stingiest defenses.
Singleton, who has rushed for more than 200 yards in six games, broke the 2,000-yard mark for the
season last week when he rushed for 214 yards in a 42-0 victory over Wildwood, giving him 2,034
Leesburg's defense is the best in Central Florida, allowing an average of just 115.5 yards and 4.7
points a game. Leesburg has shutout its last three opponents and six this season. It has not given up
more than two touchdowns in any game.
''I don't know if they (the defense) can play any better,'' said Hoffman, the former Yellow Jacket
defensive coordinator who became Leesburg's head coach this season. ''I think defense is what is
going to make the difference in the playoffs. The team that plays the best defense will win.''
Land O' Lakes' defense has not shut out an opponent, but five of its opponents have been limited to
two touchdowns or less. And the Gators, when they have had to, have shown the ability to outplay
opponents in high scoring contests, like a 47-32 victory over New Port Richey Ridgewood and a 33-28
district clinching championship over Tarpon Springs East Lake.
''What we have seen is Land O' Lakes is vulnerable to speed,'' Hoffman said after sending scouts to
the Gators' last two games. ''They are big and strong, but not real quick. They are well coached and
disciplined. In the Pasco game (a 27-10 loss last week), Pasco was called for 10 penalties, but I don't
think there was a flag thrown against Land O' Lakes.''
Leesburg's team once again has captured the attention and the support of its community, much in the
same manner Leesburg used to rally around its teams when Charlie Rector played for the Yellow
''I think the community is showing a lot of support,'' the elder Rector said. ''Everybody likes to be a part
of a winning program and Leesburg is back to a winning program.
''I think Mr. (Jim) Polk has done a good job in helping to develop a winning attitude in the couple of
years he has been principal. With (former) coach (Ken) Weir, that was his trademark and Coach
Hoffman has done a good job in following that tradition.''
Leesburg is back winning, there is a Rector on the team, and tonight it again is in the state playoffs.
The program has come full circle and Hoffman hopes it continues to roll along.