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10 questions: Can Steinbrenner live up to expectations that come with its move to Class 7A?

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Thu. August 4, 2011 | Times Staff

10 questions: Can Steinbrenner live up to expectations that come with its move to Class 7A?

Over the next two weeks, we’ll pose and answer a question a day about the upcoming football season. Have a topic you think needs to be addressed? E-mail us at hometeam@tampabay.com

Coming off its first full varsity season, can Steinbrenner live up to expectations that come with its move to Class 7A?

Why do we ask? The formula is coming together for Steinbrenner. District realignment has placed the Warriors in a wide-open 7A-7 alongside the likes of Chamberlain, Freedom, Gaither, Tampa Bay Tech and Wiregrass Ranch. Steinbrenner, under coach Floyd Graham, won five of its last seven games in 2010 after an 0-3 start. The Warriors lost only one senior, WR Tobi Antigha, on offense and have a senior O-line from tackle to tackle. Additionally, the Warriors have a junior-laden defense — only three senior starters — that has a wealth of game experience. After a third-place district finish last season, can the Warriors translate their promise into a district title playing with the big boys?

What they’re saying
Graham:
“I don’t think our schedule gets any easier, but I’m going to be honest, that 2A district with Jesuit and Robinson wasn’t bad. I think Jesuit could beat anyone on our schedule this year. As far as jumping up, my personal opinion is you can only put 11 on the field at a time. Our kids had a great spring and they’re really fired up. It’s the same core group of kids that walked in the door as sophomores.”

More Graham: “Once we won that first game (vs. Bloomingdale), the kids finally said to themselves, ‘Hey, we can win a game.’ The big confidence boost was the Middleton game. After that they were rolling. To beat a 5-5 Lennard team and a 5-5 Middleton team, our goal was to be competitive last year, and we were competitive.”

OL Alex Vega: “I wouldn’t prefer any other quarterback.” (when asked if QB Curtis Fitch is the real deal)

What we’re saying
Eduardo A. Encina:
Because of the way Steinbrenner ended last season, the Warriors will enter this season with newfound confidence. The Warriors’ greatest strength will be in the trenches, where Steinbrenner has an all-senior offensive line that has started a combined 20 games.

In their new district, controlling the line of scrimmage, establishing a running game and dictating the game clock — just as the Warriors did in the spring vs. Alonso — will be critical.

Make no mistake, this team is battle-tested. And it will make the playoffs this year.

Joey Knight: When assessing a football team’s potential, the first place I typically focus on is the offensive line.

The Warriors’ stability there, combined with their overall game experience and highly underrated coaching staff — Graham is lavish in his praise of defensive coordinator Joe Ross — make them immediate contenders in a wide-open district.

General rule of thumb is, a football coach requires three years to mold his program into a contender. This is Year 3. I say the Warriors make the playoffs.

Also in this series:

Can St. Petersburg Catholic’s Ryan Green rush for 2,000 yards?

Will the Robinson Knights regress or reload?

Will this be the year of the quarterback in Pinellas County?

What are realistic expectations for Fivay?

Who will start the season at quarterback at Gaither?

Which new head coach on the North Suncoast will fare the best in 2011?

Who will be tougher to replace, St. Petersburg RB Rashad Lewis or Countryside OL Tyler Moore?

How will Wiregrass Ranch respond after its first district title?

How will Middleton get the ball into Richard Benjamin’s hands?

Who will be the North Suncoast's breakout players?

Which Pinellas transfer will have the biggest impact?

Players in post

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