To preview the 2014 high school football season, The Tampa Tribune is counting down the top-10 teams in Hillsborough County. These preseason rankings were voted on by Tribune writers Scott Purks and Nick Williams, high school sports editor Doug Jacobs and correspondent Jarrett Guthrie.
TAMPA — If Hillsborough can get some blocking along its offensive line, then the Terriers just might do some damage.
That’s because Hillsborough has one of the top quarterback prospects in the country in 6-foot-5 Dwayne Lawson, who has several talented skill players to help carry the load, including wideouts Xavier Byrd (576 receiving yards in 2013) and Jon Hughes (473 receiving yards) and running back Rudy Dawson (455 receiving yards). Add in running back Michael Duclos, a transfer from Robinson, and every Terriers’ numbers could rise, especially Lawson’s.
As a junior in 2013, Lawson threw for 2,120 yards, rushed for another 1,068 and accounted for 31 touchdowns. He did a good deal of that, however, while running from defenders.
A few linemen expected to provide a little more protection are Nolan Johnson (6-foot-4, 250 pounds), Zack Carter (6-4, 230) and Michael Hilliard (6-3, 320).
“The offensive line has made progress and overall they should be better,” Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said. “If they step up we should be OK.”
Defensively, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, an FIU commit, leads the way with a non-stop work ethic. Around Al-Shaair will be linebackers Armand Chalk and Tyreese Sesler and defensive backs Byrd and Hughes.
Up front, defensive end Willie Lanier is expected to shine along with Justin Moore, both of whom might spend a little time blocking for the offense as well.
Another part of the puzzle for Hillsborough will be revving up to full speed in its first two games against Class 6A-District 8 arch rivals Jefferson and Armwood. Last year, the Terriers lost both those games in the first two weeks and suddenly their playoff hopes were all but dashed.
“Those first two games (against Jefferson and Armwood) are basically a double-elimination tournament,” Garcia said. “We want to win both, but absolutely have to win at least one of those. I believe we can get it done.”
Aug. 22 at Clearwater
Sept. 5 at Jefferson