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Preps

Hillsborough County football team previews

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 08:18 PM

ALONSO

ON OFFENSE: Sure, the squad has a new coach, but thankfully, Brian Emanuel served as the offensive coordinator last season. That means he gets to delve a bit deeper into the playbook with a group led by Mississippi State commit Brandon Holloway, who will spend time as a running back and receiver. Then there's quarterback Brandon Hawkins, whom Emanuel has compared to former Plant and current University of Alabama QB Phillip Ely. Ish Witter, led the Ravens in rushing touchdowns (five), while receiver Eddie Castillo caught 11 passes for 176 yards and a score. Look for more two tight end sets this season, mixed in with I-formation in addition to elements of the spread.

ON DEFENSE: Linebacker Marcus Neuman, whose 127 tackles tied with former Alonso and current University of Miami player Anthony Chickillo, is back to lead this group. He'll be joined by Jordan Davis who had 92 tackles. Last season, the unit was clearly bent on getting after the ball with its 35 sacks, 10 fumble recoveries, nine forced fumbles and nine interceptions.

OUTLOOK: This team appears ripe with a mix of young talent and upper class leadership that also boasts its own playmakers. The team is operating with its third head coach in as many seasons, but familiarity has given the team a bump up in numbers.

"I know every coach right now is undefeated," Emanuel said, "but we've got the skill guys and we performed pretty dang well in 7-on-7 this summer. If we can shore up our offensive line and protect, I think we can compete with just abut anybody."

Eddie Daniels

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ARMWOOD

ON OFFENSE: The Hawks have taken some early hits injury-wise, with running back Matt Jones, center Cameron Dees and quarterback Darryl Richardson all going down with knee injuries before September. Dees, however, recently returned to action while Jones and Richardson are expected back before district play begins. The good news for the Hawks is they have plenty of depth. Receiver Alvin Bailey has played quarterback before and Wade Edwards is considered one of the best breakaway threats in the county. And with that Armwood offensive line, aka "The Great Wall of Seffner," Edwards will likely get to show that ability often.

ON DEFENSE: This is the unit Armwood has relied on for the past several years to carry the load in big games. And the 2011 squad is no different. Led by seniors Eric Striker at linebacker and Sheldon Lewinson on the defensive line and junior Leon McQuay III in the secondary, this is a fast, physical and punishing defense with Division I talent at just about every spot. Any team scoring on this Hawks defense, considered one of the best ever in the program's history, will have something to celebrate.

OUTLOOK: This Hawks squad is not only expected to win a state championship this fall, it's expected to do so in dominant fashion. Armwood has already moved to the No. 1 spot in the MaxPreps computer national rankings and has knocked off a top-15 team on the road, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman. If the Hawks run the table the remainder of the way, they could argue to be the best high school team in the country. The key will be avoiding more injuries and not overlooking strong local squads like Jefferson, Plant, Hillsborough and King.

Bill Ward

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BERKELEY PREP

ON OFFENSE: The line is all but new and the Klein brothers have graduated, but the bulk of the Bucs offense is back, including Rivals No. 1 athlete Nelson Agholor. The speedy senior has the ability to line up anywhere and will be one of the top targets of quarterback Destin Nichols, who has thrown only three interceptions the past two seasons. Also returning is last season's leading receiver, Christian Hardegree.

ON DEFENSE: It starts up front with linemen Reggie Barnes and Tyler Davis. Manning the middle is one of the top linebackers in the county, Schyler Miles, and Agholor and Hardegree (interceptions leader) will pull double duty in the defensive backfield.

OUTLOOK: The Bucs have taken steps toward respectability every year since Dominick Ciao became the coach in 2007. This year, Berkeley has all the parts to make a long postseason run. "There's something about this team that feels special,'' Hardegree said. "We've all grown up together putting in the work. We knew we had something special from the beginning and we've just been growing and growing and growing. It feels about time. We'll see what happens.''

Katherine Smith

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BLAKE

ON OFFENSE: Coach Harry Hubbard calls receiver Darreon Telfair a playmaker. The long receiver can stretch the field when needed and pull down those tall passes. And he won't be the lone Yellow Jacket making plays either. The squad returns leading receiver Marcus Carter, who snatched 18 receptions for 303 yards and three scores. Up front, the offensive line with be led by 6-foot-3, 290 center Joshua Vizcaino. He'll try to keep quarterback Zain Gilmore, who played last season, clean.

ON DEFENSE: Richard Newton, who shared the lead in sacks (6.0) with Centrell Austin last season is back to help the defensive line pressure opponents. The defensive backfield was impressive as a whole last season, collecting 17 total interceptions. Marquise Kelly who led the bunch with five picks has graduated, but DeAndre James, who was second with four interceptions, will return to help lead the unit.

OUTLOOK: This team has taken its lumps the past couple of seasons. That experience for this young bunch has served as a useful canvas on which to draw as they've matured together. Blake, competing in the stout Class 5A-District 8, will fight Dunedin, Gibbs, Jesuit, Lakewood, Lennard, Middleton, Robinson and Spoto for a spot in the playoffs. "The first time you watch them go as freshmen, you know they have to take their lumps and there's nothing you can really do, but give the best instruction for what you have," Hubbard said. "My main thing is, if you keep guys together, then you develop a unity. The sophomores who will be juniors, they've played together and with them playing together, they have two years under their belt already."

Eddie Daniels

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BLOOMINGDALE

ON OFFENSE: The offense in the past has been dependent on a four-wide set. Now, coach John Booth will look to go with more two tight end sets and I-formation with the running game being led by junior Eugene Baker.

ON DEFENSE: The Bulls will mainly rely on a 4-3 formation Booth said will be focused on "flying to the football."

OUTLOOK: Booth said this is the most prepared the Bulls have ever been entering a season. An offseason workout program and the continued continuity of coaching staff, playbook and terminology can only work to the advantage of a young team steadily improving. The Bulls will have to deal with a tough district led by Plant, but by limiting mistakes like 17 interceptions a season ago may give Bloomingdale the chance it needs to start changing some minds about the team.

Jarrett Guthrie

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BRANDON

ON OFFENSE: The Eagles averaged 220 rushing yards per game last season, 297 through their first four games. Senior running back Tyrell Garner averaged 6.4 yards per carry and will be expected to carry the load this season. Senior quarterback Alan Knippel split snaps with Josh Celerin last season, but will take over full time and will have a huge target in 6-foot-4 receiver Jalen Stringfellow.

ON DEFENSE: Junior linebacker Jesse Chesnut and senior defensive back D'Andre Franklin each totaled 45 tackles last season and will be expected to lead the defense this year. The Eagles averaged two sacks per game last year and finished with 26 on the season. Of the 16 forced fumbles Brandon recorded last season, 11 were recovered.

OUTLOOK: Brandon went 9-2 last season and lost to Clearwater in the Class 5A region quarterfinals, 46-16. "This team right now is still trying to find an identity,'' Brandon coach John Lima said. "We want to see who's going to step up. If our (offensive) line develops, we should be pretty good, but the hardest part will be replacing some of those guys on defense.''

Nick Williams

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CAMBRIDGE CHRISTIAN

ON OFFENSE: Expect a shotgun, spread formation with plenty of variations. Junior Phillip Johnson will be at quarterback. Senior Daniel Hamilton and freshman Garrett Young also will get snaps at quarterback. Hamilton, who led the team in rushing and scoring last season, will carry the load at running back. Demarcus Faison, Brandon Park, Robbie Robertson and tight end Christian Cooper lead the receiving corps.

ON DEFENSE: The Lancers will have a 3-5 front. Coach Bob Dare expects aggressive play that gets the ball back from opponents. Cooper and Matt Bass will be ends with Hamilton and Park at linebacker. Faison, Johnson and Robertson are in the secondary.

OUTLOOK: "We are in a nine-team, really competitive district, but our expectation is to make a run for the playoffs,'' coach Bob Dare said. "We've been working very hard with our offensive line. It all starts there. The offense has potential to score a lot of points.''

Don Trello

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CARROLLWOOD DAY

ON OFFENSE: Generating an offensive attack likely won't be an issue for the Patriots. The squad returns last season's record-setting running back in Robert Davis and starting, dual-threat quarterback Deuce Gruden. Davis amassed a school-record 1,523 rushing yards, scoring 15 touchdowns, while Gruden completed 86-of-137 passes for 1,584 yards, 15 TDs and four interceptions. The offensive line will be anchored by center Jarrod Smith, who has played for CDS since he was an eighth grader. Gruden will have several receivers to target, including last season's leading receiver Dillon Floyd.

ON DEFENSE: The unit will welcome back leading tackler Patrick Ward. Last season, the linebacker had 87 tackles, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal attempt. Meanwhile, Dominiq Sicardo has proven to be very athletic this summer. During 7-on-7 sessions, the tight end has spent time at quarterback with a level of success. Defensively, he'll be asked to help keep opposing quarterbacks from being as lucky. Last season, the CDS defense collected 27 sacks, but it returns just half of their sack leaders in Sicardo (three sacks) and Chance Furman (three).

OUTLOOK: Beginning its fourth season in 11-man football, this will be the first time it will have an opportunity to compete for an FHSAA playoff spot. That seems to have the Patriots more than ready to go. They've gone 17-4 the past two seasons as an independent and will now enter the nine-team, Class 2A-District 5 grouping with an eye on the postseason. "We're excited about playing and they've got a lot of confidence now, but they've got to step up," Patriots coach Lane McLaughlin said. "We expect to win now."

Eddie Daniels

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CHAMBERLAIN

ON OFFENSE: The team suffered a blow to its offense when projected starter at quarterback Mitchell Norden transferred to Tampa Catholic days before fall practice ensued. Chiefs coach Joe Severino has pegged sophomore Joshua Bennett to take over. Bennett will be surrounded by experienced teammates on the line in center Joe Castellano and tackles Stephen Overton and Fitzroy Hector. Meanwhile, skill players Xavier Johnson (RB) and Germain Gilyard will attempt to take the pressure off Bennett.

ON DEFENSE: Just like the offense, Chamberlain welcomes back many familiar faces on the defensive side of the ball, including emotional leader Carlin Scott, who will play strong safety. Defensive linemen Kendrick Green, Norman Sherman, Marcus Stewart and Tim Wright as well as linebacker Tevin Ordonez will work on improving on last season's pedestrian 10 sacks as a unit.

OUTLOOK: The Chiefs had just two wins on the season, but Severino is confident the group would have added to that total had a few minor things gone their way. "I think we're further ahead (compared to last year at this time)," Severino said. "This is my third year and it's all those guys' third year who started with me. They know what we're trying to do."

Eddie Daniels

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DURANT

ON OFFENSE: The Cougars were a power running team last season, led by former quarterback Je'Twan Smith and sophomore running back Jarmarlon Hamilton. This year, Hamilton will line up in the backfield with junior Zach Hooper and senior Mike Stephens, while new starting quarterback senior Nick Fabrizio will be threat with his running ability. Durant also returns its entire offensive line.

ON DEFENSE: Durant's defense graduated two standout playmakers in lineman Daivonte Lumpkin and linebacker Clay Varnum, but returns a strong secondary with Stephens, JJ Garrett and Dylan Rector. Stopping the run was one of the defense's many strengths last season, so maintaining their ability to contain the opponent's rushing attack is a must for the Cougars in 2011.

OUTLOOK: The Cougars finished 6-4 last year and were eliminated from the playoffs in a 27-21 loss to rival Plant City towards the end of the season. A solid running and defensive team, the Cougars will look to make their first playoff appearance since 2008.

Nick Williams

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EAST BAY

ON OFFENSE: The wishbone is gone and the spread offense will certainly be a change of philosophy for the Indians. Don't look for East Bay to re-invent the wheel here. With a backfield consisting of two junior tailbacks, a sophomore fullback and a sophomore quarterback, coach Frank LaRosa will look to keep the play calling simple until his players get comfortable.

ON DEFENSE: The Indians will continue to run a 4-4 defense, as they did with LaRosa as defensive coordinator, but he said the plan will be a little more complex.

OUTLOOK: East Bay's offense is young and small, but it has a lot of speed and athleticism. The spread offense will take some time for players to get used to, but with youth on its side the growth rate should be fast.

Jarrett Guthrie

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FREEDOM

ON OFFENSE: The Patriots will be balanced on offense. Tyrell Nunn (149 rushing yards) and Trevor Steinke (286 rushing yards) will control the ground game while second-year quarterback Jonathan Economou can move the ball through the air. Steinke is also Freedom's leading returning receiver after finishing third on the team last season with 164 receiving yards.

ON DEFENSE: Freedom has strong linebackers with Isaac Tanner and Brody Flanagin. Tanner, a junior, led the team in tackles last season with 133 along with four sacks. Senior and Division I recruit Larry Thorpe can play multiple positions, from linebacker to strong safety.

OUTLOOK: Freedom, which finished 3-7 last season, had its share of opportunities. The Patriots lost three games by seven points or less, which included a 21-14 loss to eventual state playoff qualifier Tampa Bay Tech. "This year, we're a lot closer,'' Tanner said. "We're fewer in numbers (this season) so it brings us in more.''

Nick Williams

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GAITHER

ON OFFENSE: The Cowboys have a completely revamped offense this season complete with new quarterback Alex McGough and coordinators Kevin Diez and Bruno Frauenfeld. The former Alonso assistants have implemented a system that had the Ravens flying high for years. Former quarterback Shug Oyegunle can show off his versatility in this scheme as a slot receiver. Also look for Carlo Perello, who possesses some of the best hands in the county and is a mean blocker. The big question mark for the Cowboys will be the offensive line.

ON DEFENSE: This has been the strength of the Cowboys the past several seasons and with some help from an offense that doesn't produce a lot of three-and-outs, this unit can be even stronger. Led by linebacker Josh Scarberry and lineman Mikhail Reece, Gaither's defense sets the tone with high intensity.

OUTLOOK: New coach Jason Stokes has injected some energy into a team that has the ability to do some damage in Class 7A-District 7. "It's a totally different feel this year," Scarberry said. "All these coaches are really on us and they're making us work extra hard. Everybody's really busting their butt and really getting after it."

Katherine Smith

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HILLSBOROUGH

ON OFFENSE: There's potential for a big step up for the Terriers this season on this side of the ball. Track standouts Anthony Brown and Jeremiah Green will enter the backfield, as will multi-talented Nigel Harris. That trio made their name on defense last season and will continue to play there, but their speed will be put to use on offense for the first time. Once again, the key for the Terriers will be the performance of the offensive line, many of whom will also play on defense.

ON DEFENSE: This should be the Terriers' strong suit. They have tremendous talent up the middle, with highly-recruited nose guard Earl Moore on the line, linebackers Jordan Sherit and Harris poised for breakout seasons and Brown and Green anchoring the secondary. But with so many of them playing both ways, the key will be stamina and avoiding injuries.

OUTLOOK: Under coach Earl Garcia, Hillsborough has been one of the county's perennial playoff squads for the past two decades. But he has seen a big turnover in his staff and, once again, the Terriers are thin on linemen. They're also in one of the toughest districts in Florida, one which includes nationally-ranked Armwood and 2010 state champion Jefferson. Earning a playoff spot in this "The District of Death'' will be a serious challenge.

Bill Ward

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JEFFERSON

ON OFFENSE: Offensively, Jefferson has plenty options with seniors Adrian Jenkins and Charles Booth at receiver and junior Shaquille Speights at running back. Jesuit transfer Tyler Small, Gaither transfer Zach Condon and Deondre Porter, the JV quarterback last season, are all competing for the starting position.

ON DEFENSE: Somewhat overshadowed by its high-scoring offense last season, Earle said Jefferson's defense should rank among the top in the county. Leading the way will be 6-foot-4, 230 pound senior defensive end Tyriq McCord, a consensus four-star recruit who led the county in sacks last year with 18.5. Senior Will Watson, who is verbally committed to Iowa State, will guide the secondary along with two-way senior athlete Charles Booth.

OUTLOOK: Jefferson is the defending Class 3A state champions and the road back to the state finals will be filled with tough matchups. A three-game stretch includes with contests at Ohio's St. Edward on Saturday, Sept. 24, nationally-ranked Armwood the following Friday and Hillsborough the upcoming Thursday on Oct. 6.

Nick Williams

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JESUIT

ON OFFENSE: Jesuit will have one of the top receiving units in the county with junior Travis Johnson and senior Bryce Walker, who combined for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Robby Gibbons, who had verbally committed to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, will lead the offensive line. Tommy Eveld, Bobby's younger brother, takes over at QB.

ON DEFENSE: Senior Isaac Edwards and junior Robby Garcia, both Division I prospects, will lead the defensive line while Johnson and Walker will spend time in the secondary. Sophomore Vincent Jackson is quickly becoming one of the area's top recruits for the Class of 2013. He already owns a scholarship offer from South Florida.

OUTLOOK: Jesuit is coming off one of its most successful seasons in recent memory. The Tigers went undefeated in the regular season and captured the Class 2A-District 5 championship, their first since 2002. The team also earned their first playoff win since 2004 and went on to reach the 2A state region final. Though in a new district which includes Lakewood and Gibbs, Jesuit is capable of making another run at the state final four.

Nick Williams

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KING

ON OFFENSE: Head coach Alvin Davis admits he's a bit spoiled. He's given quarterback Greg Windham free reign with the offense and he hasn't disappointed. Despite losing his cousin and leading receiver Reese Sturgis, Windham will connect with Chris Murray (27 rec., 493 yards, 7 TDs) and Taylor Smith-Gonzales (9 rec., 190 yards, 2 TDs). They also have a solid outlet in tight end Kim Jackson. Meanwhile, George Green will handle the rushing load.

ON DEFENSE: Linebackers Austin Cox and Demetrius Dillard are able to get dirty and fill gaps or get out into space and work as pass defenders, making that defense versatile. The secondary will be manned by Murray and Smith-Gonzales, among others. The two combined for six of the team's nine 2010 interceptions.

OUTLOOK: The Lions were a field goal away from beating Hillsborough and clinching their first playoff spot since 2001. Although the road ahead will be tough with the likes of Armwood, Jefferson, Hillsborough and Sickles, King coaches and players are confident they'll make their way to the postseason. "We believe we're good and we can win," Davis said. "They believe in that. The kids believe they can win and know they can win. They play as if they can win."

Eddie Daniels

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LETO

ON OFFENSE: Coach Matt Kitchie said the Falcons offense will be run heavy, but said skill level and matchup will determine specific formation. "We are going to run a lot and pass some and melt it together to what fits our chances the best," Kitchie said. The Falcons will not have to go far to improve on their offensive numbers from a season ago as the offense only scored two touchdowns. Kitchie said the offense will not be about numbers, but steadily improving. The passing game led by Francisco Salcedo will need to create a little better this season to open holes for the Falcons ground game.

ON DEFENSE: Leto will run a four-man defensive front, primarily in the 4-2-5 formation with a lot of blitz packages from its secondary. Similar to the offense, Leto struggled mightily on defense as it was outscored, 370-13 (not counting a 68-0 loss to King that was later ruled a forfeit). Kitchie said the Falcons will be blitz heavy and put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

OUTLOOK: In a district with Armwood, Hillsborough, Jefferson and King this is going to be tough for Leto. The outlook here is simple for Kitchie – improve.

Jarrett Guthrie

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LENNARD

ON OFFENSE: Coach George Eddington will use a hybrid Wing-T and feels he will be strong on the line, and at the skill positions with the addition of transfer players. New offensive coordinator Daryl Stewart will be a big plus because of Stewart's ability to run the type of offense Eddington envisions.

ON DEFENSE: Basic 4-4 with possible changes depending on the opposition. Should be strong with All-County middle linebacker senior David Sanders, who averaged 11 tackles per game last season, and 6-4, 240 pound senior lineman Nick Salman.

OUTLOOK: Eddington feels his team will have a very good season if it can avoid injuries and gets good line play. "We have strong kids who like to play football,'' Eddington said. "They work hard in the weight room. I think we are going to be very hard to beat if we are strong up front. I've never had this much speed. We have some depth at all the skill positions and on either the (offensive) or (defensive) line. Every where else we are loaded. This could be the best team I've had if we stay healthy.''

Don Trello

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MIDDLETON

ON OFFENSE: Before preseason workouts began, first-year Tigers coach Alonzo Ashwood saw several starters, including quarterback Aaron Midthus, transfer to other schools. Undeterred, Ashwood has found a newcomer, junior Kenyatta Young, to take over at quarterback while trying to install the style of offense and discipline he learned as a player and coach at Hillsborough. It may take some time for this offense to gel, but with threats like star receiver Richard Benjamin in the Tigers' arsenal, they should competitive in the district before season's end.

ON DEFENSE: Like many of the county's smaller schools, Middleton will rely on several players going both ways, including Richard Benjamin (receiver/cornerback). The key here will be the athletes who are playing both on the defensive and offensive lines. There are a limited number of sizeable linemen, on Ashwood's roster but he and assistant Cosey Coleman, a former Buccaneers starter, are developing a cohesive unit.

OUTLOOK: Speed and skilled athletes will not be an issue for the Tigers. It's a need for dependable linemen and linebackers, as well as depth at those positions. There could also be a certain amount of growing pains as Ashwood installs his coaching schemes and philosophies at the school. But with the breakaway threats he has at his disposal, no team should take the Tigers lightly this fall.

Bill Ward

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NEWSOME

ON OFFENSE: The Wolves aren't known for throwing the football and run a Wing-T offense about 70 percent of the time. The line is young but looks solid with senior Keith Weeks at center. Junior Will Worth, who started last season at quarterback, should continue to develop as a quarterback. The backfield features hard-running fullback Keller Powers (whose brother Connor led Hillsborough County in rushing as a senior last season), wingback Jorge Thompson and halfback Clint Cornell. The competition is wide open at receiver.

ON DEFENSE: Senior tackle Cody Summerlin and junior defensive end Cody Rector will anchor a 4-4 defense, but the Wolves also use 4-3 and 5-3 fronts. The defensive backs and secondary are young and should improve with experience. Sophomore Aaron Wade has potential to be a first-rate cornerback.

OUTLOOK: "I try to preach to the kids to get aligned right, be competitive and play hard every game,'' coach Ken Hiscock said. "I never make judgments until we play our first game. We have guys plugged in at the right spots and we are going to be better day-by-day. The plan is to be pretty tough by the postseason.''

Don Trello

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PLANT

ON OFFENSE: James Few or Aaron Banks. Or perhaps both. Expect to see a lot of these two quarterbacks. It's not so much a two-quarterback system for the Panthers in the vein of when one messes up the other goes in. Instead, coach Robert Weiner wants to utilize the strengths of both players. Receivers Austin Aikins and Daniel Casselli will be go-to guys and running back Wesley Bullock possesses the speed and versatility to allow Weiner to play mad scientist and find creative ways to get him involved.

ON DEFENSE: The Panthers defensive backfield is stacked with Antonio Crawford, usually mostly on the offensive side of the ball in the past, at cornerback and Drew Madhu ball hawking from the strong safety position. This could be the fastest defensive units Plant's fielded in quite a while.

OUTLOOK: Plant has advanced to the state championship game three-consecutive years and there's no reason to believe they can't make it four in the new Class 8A. The Panthers are used to starting slowly and picking up steam as the season goes along.

Katherine Smith

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PLANT CITY

ON OFFENSE: Loaded is one way to describe the Raiders offense. Talent-laden is another. Led by Cincinnati-bound quarterback Bennie Coney, Plant City presents a balanced attack, through the air, with leading receiver Lamarlin Wiggins, or on the ground diminutive speedster Dazmond Patterson.

ON DEFENSE: Plant City's got just as many Division I prospects on defense. Linebacker Jalen Butler packs a powerful punch and defensive back Sam Green combines speed and heavy hitting. The Raiders defensive unit has the ability to create scoring opportunities with its size and speed.

OUTLOOK: An offseason of bonding was exactly what this team needed to help with chemistry. The Raiders are far too talented to not go far this season. But they need to get more quality wins under their belt to prove they are a contender.

Katherine Smith

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RIVERVIEW

ON OFFENSE: The Sharks failed to win a game last season, but it wasn't from lack of effort or opportunity. Riverview's offense features a strong running game, led up front by senior offensive lineman Mark Smith and senior running back Steven Maines.

ON DEFENSE: This is a strong unit, nicknamed the Black Hole, led by linebackers Sean Shapiro and Lasander Washington. Playing in a district featuring several strong running teams, the Sharks defense will have its hands full.

OUTLOOK: You'd never tell by the attitude of the Sharks team that they didn't win any games last season. If anything, Riverview is hungrier to get a victory and it showed in their dedicated offseason workouts.

Katherine Smith

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ROBINSON

ON OFFENSE: The bulk of the starters the Knights lost from last season's state semifinal team are on this side of the ball. Gone are playmakers Rueben Gonzalez, Blake Rice and Frankie Williams. With a young roster, Robinson's looking for several players to step up and fill those roles.

ON DEFENSE: Speed. That's one thing you'll notice with the Knights defense. Led by defensive backs Vic Rivera and Carlos Duclos, who was injured in the Kickoff Classic, Robinson's defense has the potential to be the signature unit for the team this season.

OUTLOOK: Replacing 17 starters with a young and inexperienced roster will be tough. But with back-to-back state semifinal appearances, the Knights have gotten used to winning and want to continue.

Katherine Smith

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SEFFNER CHRISTIAN

ON OFFENSE: The Crusaders run a spread offense that continues to feature multi-talented senior Tanner Richardson at quarterback. Senior Brandon Ardley is expected to get the bulk of the carries at running back and wide receiver Garrett Sanders, who was the No. 1 receiver last season, should see plenty of passes. The offensive line needs to recognize what's in front of them and take what the defense gives.

ON DEFENSE: Coach Steve Lewis will use a 3-4 front that gives his team more flexibility after starting with a 3-3 last season. The defensive line is expected to be a strong point and the defensive backs have potential to be solid. Freshman Marcus Richardson, who started as an eighth grader, will be back at nose guard.

OUTLOOK: Lewis expressed concern over his team's lack of depth, but sees a positive attitude among the players as the program enters its second year. "Our initial season we had 35 to 37 out. We have about 28 out this year. We are going to struggle with depth and hope the injury bug stays away from us. I expect great effort and that's what we coach. The wins and losses will take care of themself. One any given night anybody can beat anybody. Maybe down the road we will set some goals (for wins and losses). There's a good sense of togetherness on the team."

Don Trello

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STEINBRENNER

ON OFFENSE: The Warriors return all five starting offensive linemen. This will bode well for up-and-coming sophomore quarterback Curtis Fitch and sophomore running back Jake Carroll. If they open up the passing game, Fitch will have plenty of targets, including wide receiver Jon Carrier.

ON DEFENSE: Several leaders on this unit, including senior defensive back Zack Jones and senior defensive back Danny Fernandez. The Warriors defense swarms to the ball and have created an attitude of unrelenting pursuit.

OUTLOOK: In its third year of existence, Steinbrenner is hoping to capitalize on last year's strong showing and hopefully contend for a district title.

Katherine Smith

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SICKLES

ON OFFENSE: If things go as the Sickles coaching staff expects, this unit will be hard to defend in the air and on the ground. Despite losing program rushing leader Carey White, the team has a stable of running backs itching to take his place. Don't be surprised to see the Gryphons use more than one quarterback during contests either. Incumbent Lee Myers, brings a certain skill set, as does Alonso transfer Nate Mills. The offensive line will be anchored by Sean Smith and Michael Santana. And if the offense needs assistance, kicker Andres Vasquez has the leg to put points on the board.

ON DEFENSE: They've got nine starters returning from this unit, which includes safety Adrian Lopez, defensive back/linebacker Adekunle Olusanya and defensive back Jordan Robinson. Together, the trio combined for 148 tackles, six interceptions, five sacks and three forced fumbles.

OUTLOOK: Brian Turner, in his second season as head coach, appears to building something special over on Gunn Highway. This group isn't looking to be a walkover for opponents and that mentality will serve them well in the newly aligned Class 6A-District 8 grouping. Facing opponents such as Armwood, Hillsborough, Jefferson and King – to name a few – will call for a certain level of confidence and swagger. "We're not going back down from anybody," Turner said. "They're going to be in a dogfight."

Eddie Daniels

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SPOTO

ON OFFENSE: Spoto head coach Dale Caparaso said we could see a two-quarterback system with Jaylon Davis and Braxton Wright. Senior receiver Geronimo Allison, a 6-foot-4 target, is playing his first varsity season after being ruled ineligible in sophomore and junior year and is already expected to be one of the top receivers in the area. Senior Tim Adams is the returning leading rusher from last season after posting 277 yards with three touchdowns in 2010. Adams will share running back duties with junior Eric Moate, a speedster who will also be used at receiver and kick returner.

ON DEFENSE: Since Caparaso arrived in 2008, Spoto has been a blitz-oriented team, creating havoc whenever possible. The Spartans will be deep at the linebacker position, a unit Spoto has been blessed with since it opened in 2006. This year, that unit will be led by Darian Morris and Rontavious Henry and Belle Glade transfer P.J. Coleman. Caparaso hopes out-of-state transfer Isaiah Harrison (6-5, 280 pounds) along with Fred Lucas will standout on the defensive line.

OUTLOOK: The Spartans finished 6-4 last season and lost the final game of the year to Lakewood in a game that decided the district runner-up and secured a playoff spot. Spoto will have to replace several key players at prominent positions that graduated this past school. Those players were defensive linemen Fredell Moore and Jamario Belton, receivers/defensive backs Khiry Hernandez and Tyron Baker, quarterback/defensive back Nick Addison, safety Donald Smith and running back/linebacker Danny Taylor. As productive as those players were, Spoto has always managed to regroup and move players around to maximize their abilities.

Nick Williams

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STRAWBERRY CREST

ON OFFENSE: Dickens said he is keeping the Chargers offense close to the vest, but did say he plans on running a 50-50 balanced offense with the passing game running through QB Trey Van De Grift. His key target will be WR Karel Hamilton and the running game will be by committee.

ON DEFENSE: The Chargers will run a 3-4 hoping to stop the aggressive running games it will see this season.

OUTLOOK: Strawberry Crest will need a couple of big breaks to have success this season as an underdog in a district of heavyweights which includes, Armwood, Hillsborough and Jefferson.

Jarrett Guthrie

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WHARTON

ON OFFENSE: Sophomore Chase Litton took over as starting quarterback toward the end of last season and finished with 722 passing yards and eight touchdowns. Litton will be expected to lead the offense this year, which will co-starred by senior running Darius Page, two-way junior Vernon Hargreaves and tight end Nyere Thompson.

ON DEFENSE: Hargreaves, a 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back, is a playmaker in Wharton's defense, given his ability to change the outcome of a game. In the preseason classic against Riverview, he returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown. Senior defensive back John Tyler is the team's returning leading tackler after posting 56 last season. He will be joined by junior linebacker Rocky Enos, who had 34 tackles last season.

OUTLOOK: After reaching the Class 5A region semifinals in 2008, when the team finished 9-3, Wharton has gone 2-8 and 3-7.

It seems like the Wildcats have been in rebuilding mode since that season, when they were led by Division I recruits Andrew Clifford (quarterback, South Carolina) and two-way star safety/receiver Jairus Jones (Michigan State). This season, however, Wharton has a young nucleus of players to build around in Litton, Hargreaves, junior lineman Gabe Nold and Enos. Wharton plays in a four team district with Plant, Alonso and Bloomingdale in the new re-classified Class 8A. Bloomingdale and Alonso won a combined total of six games last season while Plant reached the Class 5A state title game. The district winner and runner-up advance to the state region playoffs.

Nick Williams

 

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