Quickly wrapping up loose ends before the kickoff:
1. The biggest question this season appears to be exactly how many state championships can Hillsborough County win.
The answer is probably one, though the two I would pick are Armwood and Jefferson.
2. Speaking of Plant: If a chef overcooks a dish, do you take that dish and yell at it as you throw it in the garbage?
Stupid lamb shanks with ancho chile honey glaze! I hate you!
No. You tell the chef he cooked it too long, seasoned it all wrong, screwed it up.
So, how come no one does the same with Rivals and ESPN? They took a team that lost 17 starters, including nine on defense, and ranked them Nos. 1 and 2 respectively. The reaction locally was predictable: that’s insane.
While perusing Facebook, Twitter and various message boards the morning after Plant’s 49-10 loss to Bradenton Manatee, I saw countless instances where Plant was criticized, and players like James Wilder Jr. were demeaned. Which is fair, I guess.
But not once did I see anyone write, “Wow, the polls really screwed that one up.”
Which they did.
Rivals dropped Plant 77 spots this week. ESPN dropped it 44 spots.
Which tells you this: as much as Plant stunk last Friday, the polls stunk more. They just didn’t have to stick around and take all the heat for it.
3. I don’t think Sickles will go 10-0, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. Its schedule sets up nicely for such a feat, with the two toughest games coming in district play against Largo and Boca Ciega.
4. Bad luck for Jesuit coach James Harrell, who will have to make his debut against Lakeland Kathleen, a Class 4A state contender.
5. On paper, Jefferson should beat Hillsborough handily. But in a rivalry game with Earl Garcia coaching the underdogs, would you want to bet on that? (Okay, fine, so maybe this year I would).
6. Middleton and King are supposed to be much improved. I say the winner of tonight’s game gets to 6-4 this season.
7. Sickles’ Cary White had 200-yard performances in the spring jamboree and last week’s preseason classic. Imagine what he might do in four quarters instead of two. Someone tell me why he can’t rush for 2,000 yards this season.
8. I was surprised by Freedom’s 29-0 loss last week, but considering the players that have left in recent years, I probably shouldn’t have been. That said, Wharton takes back New Tampa this year.
9. Sometimes, when punching Robinson’s ticket to the state semifinals, I remember that Newsome won its district last year and beat the Knights 41-20. Oh, and Conner Powers is back and healthy.
10. Friday Night Rewind is in high definition this year. Thank goodness for flawless skin.