To say that Durant High School's football season was good would be selling it far too short.
It was not a good; it was great.
In fact, through the first 10 games the Cougars went a perfect 10-0, giving the team its first undefeated regular season since the school opened in 1995.
Regular-season highlights included victories over a stout Wharton club (13-12), a solid bashing of arch-rival Plant City (22-7) and another sound beating of rival Newsome (38-28).
Durant went on to win its first-round playoff game 34-7 over Tampa Bay Tech and came down to the wire before losing in the second round in a rematch to Newsome, 21-14.
In honor of one of the best seasons that any team from Hillsborough County has had in many years, we offer up these preholiday accolades to the 2012 Cougars:
Running back Jamarlon Hamilton.
Nobody stopped Hamilton all season, as he rushed 191 times for 1,349 yards and 20 touchdowns, running around and often over defenders.
It didn't matter that opponents knew he was the focal point of the attack.
"He always found a way to get it done," coach Mike Gottman said. "He was a workhorse."
Hamilton, a senior, has received some interest from colleges.
Defensive back Randy Baker.
Baker, a senior, may not have been the biggest guy on the team (5-foot-9, 155 pounds), but he was among the toughest.
Baker led the team with an average of eight tackles a game and played full-time on special teams.
"Randy is a tough kid that does everything you ever ask of him," Gottman said.
Defensive end/defensive tackle Mike Mendez.
Wide receiver/corner back Reggie Gainer.
Left guard Dalton Wilkerson.
Defensive back Terry Grimsley.
All four players improved dramatically and had a tremendous effect on the team's improvement.
Grimsley had a couple of key interceptions, and Mendez stepped up to make almost four tackles a game.
Gainer finished second on the team with 18 receptions for 332 yards and three touchdowns, and Wilkerson filled in a gaping hole on the left side of the Cougars' line.
"Without all of these guys stepping up we might have had a lot more trouble," Gottman said. "These guys were key to everything."
Kicker Daniel Bowers.
Bowers booted 10 field goals and sent almost every kickoff into or through the end zone. He even sent one kickoff through the uprights.
Bowers, a senior, has gotten some interest from Florida Atlantic University.
Special mention goes to Zach Hooper, who returned all kickoffs and punts and returned one more than 80 yards against Wharton.
Center/defensive lineman Alex Wood.
Wood owns a 6.17 GPA, which pretty much makes him the winner of this honor by default.
Wood, who sometimes does math problems on his own because he likes to give his brain "a little extra workout," set a scholarship work ethic for all his teammates.
Wood said he hopes to go to an Ivy League school and study architecture or biological engineering, and maybe also play some football.