To preview the 2014 high school football season, The Tribune is counting down the top 10 teams in Hillsborough County. The preseason rankings were voted on by staff writers Scott Purks and Nick Williams, high school sports editor Doug Jacobs and correspondent Jarrett Guthrie.
TAMPA — The Tribune’s 2013 player of the year, Deiondre Porter, has graduated, leaving behind one of the best senior seasons in the history of Hillsborough County football.
Porter not only led Jefferson to a 10-2 record, he also threw for 3,199 yards, rushed for 1,499 and totaled 53 touchdowns. He also left behind a huge question: How do you replace him?
Jefferson coach Jeremy Earle said you don’t replace Porter. What you do is start anew and work with what you have, and the good news is that the Dragons have plenty to work with.
The intrigue begins with sophomore quarterback Cade Weldon — son of former Florida State and NFL quarterback Casey Weldon — who transferred during the summer from Berkeley Prep.
Though Weldon has never started a high school game at quarterback, Earle feels he is up to the task.
“If (Weldon) continues to improve the way he has in the first two weeks of practice, then I’d say he has a very bright future,” Earle said. “He has all the ability, but the thing I really like about him is that he loves to work. He has that gym-rat mentality.”
Weldon also has plenty of weapons around him, including returning junior running back Mondreas Lofton (791 rushing yards last year), and receivers Taj Jenkins and Maurice Moore, who each totaled more than 100 receiving yards in the spring game.
Defensively, the Dragons are anchored at linebacker by Ashante Dennard, a Division I college talent, and junior Ceddrick Knight, who finished fourth on the team in tackles last season with 56 tackles, including six for loss. Two defensive backs, Jeremiah Baltrip and Ernest Mills, also provide solid pass protection.
Heading into the season, the Dragons could be considered a relative unknown, partly because of the inexperience of Weldon and their overhauled defense. Can they compete against the likes of Hillsborough and Armwood in the rough and tough Class 6A-District 8?
Jefferson might have some growing pains.
Then again, these young talents might inflict some pain. It all depends on how fast they grow up.
Friday at Plant City
Friday, Aug. 29, vs. Alonso