TAMPA — Though Newsome’s colors are Carolina blue and white, expect Gaither High football players to see red when the Wolves get off the bus tonight at Cowboy Stadium.
Last year, in the Class 7A region quarterfinals, Newsome traveled to Cowboy Stadium and won, 52-7, propelling the Wolves’ run through the region final.
It’s safe to say the Cowboys will be looking for a little payback.
“They’re not dirty kids or anything like that, but they do have pride,” Gaither coach Jason Stokes said. “They had their lunch eaten last time.”
Newsome is coming off a 23-12 upset against Tampa Bay Tech in the regular-season opener. Stokes said Newsome’s win last week sent a message to those who may have doubted the program’s talent level, including his own players.
“They know that team (in 2012) was no fluke,” Stokes said. “We have to show up.”
The story of the game, besides the obvious revenge factor, will be how Gaither quarterback Alex McGough will fare against Newsome’s secondary, the strongest unit on its defense. Senior defensive backs Ramsey Bennett and Aaron Wade each had nine tackles against TBT, while junior safety Bruce Anderson had eight. Bennett added an interception and Anderson recovered a fumble.
In the regular-season opener against Chamberlain, a team that beat Gaither last year, McGough, who is verbally committed to Florida International, threw for 101 yards and one touchdown in a 28-0 win.
“We’ll just have to be smart in how we approach it,” Stokes said.
They don’t play in the same district, the schools are nearly 30 miles apart and the teams haven’t faced each other in five years. Yet Wharton at Plant City tonight is one of the more intriguing games of the season.
Plant City (1-0) has a seemingly impenetrable offensive line, led by Alabama commitment Montel McBride, and is moving the ball well with Landon Galloway, a converted receiver, at quarterback. Wharton (1-0), which is 5-0 against Plant City in the past decade, features Chase Litton, the area’s top-rated senior quarterback.
“Whoever wins the battle of turnovers, as well as penalties,” Plant City coach Wayne Ward said when asked about the key to the game.
“They’re big up front, and they have a lot of speed,” Wharton coach David Mitchell said.
How each coach plans to defend the opposing team’s quarterback adds to the allure of the matchup. Litton, at 6-foot-6, is more a pro-style passer, while Galloway, who is committed to Central Florida as a receiver, likes to run.
“We have to contain him,” Mitchell said of Galloway.
“We have to go after him and make him uncomfortable in the pocket,” Ward said of Litton.
That will be the task of Sedrick King, Plant City’s 6-4, 220-pound defensive end who is committed to Central Florida.
“I think he has an opportunity to show up, him and (defensive lineman) John Broome,” Ward said.