We’re breaking down a football district a day. Today: Class 6A, District 6.
Must-see game: Sept. 20, Sunlake at Springstead: The district opener for both teams could be one of the best matchups of the year. The Eagles edged Sunlake 13-7 last year en route to a district championship. The Seahawks settled for an 8-2 record and no postseason berth. The winner of this game becomes the favorite in a small but solid district.
Three story lines
Sunlake success: The Seahawks have won two in a row over rival Land O’Lakes and established themselves as one of Pasco County’s top teams with 26 wins over the past three years — but only one playoff appearance. The loss of eight starters on each side of the ball will challenge Bill Browning’s squad, but Sunlake figures to be a postseason contender again.
New challenge for Fivay: The Falcons made the playoffs in their first year of all-varsity competition in 2011 and almost repeated in ’12. Fivay has jumped to Class 6A and has traded games against Gulf and Ridgewood for matchups with Sunlake and Springstead. This year will show whether Fivay belongs among the county’s top teams or whether it starred in a weak district.
Run, run, run: Two playoff contenders — Mitchell and Springstead — are old-school, run-heavy teams. Christian Trinidad’s Mustangs faded late after a strong start last fall, but don’t be surprised if they make a postseason push this fall. Springstead shouldn’t miss a beat, even after coach Bill Vonada resigned, thanks to standout back Daniel Wright. Can the Eagles’ rushing attack lead to another playoff run?
Players to watch
Davion Sutton, RB, Fivay: The latest 1,000-yard rusher under coach Chris Taylor, Sutton had a breakout junior season (1,147 yards, 15 touchdowns). The Division I prospect has a chance to become one of Tampa Bay’s rushing leaders in the fall.
James Pensyl, QB, Land O’Lakes: The 6-foot-5 junior split time with Ethan Weilant last fall, but Weilant has taken snaps at receiver this summer. Pensyl threw for almost 1,000 yards last season, and the Gators will give him plenty of other offensive weapons.
Josh Lamb, DB, Mitchell: His 10 pass breakups as a junior ranked among the most in Tampa Bay. He added 66 tackles and an interception and could be in for a big senior season.
Tyler Mahla, QB, Springstead: Mahla enters his third season as the starter and is the North Suncoast’s most seasoned quarterback. He has accounted for 24 touchdowns and 3,000 yards of offense in the past two years and will look to lead Springstead back to the playoffs for a second year in a row.
Esteban LeWallen, QB, Sunlake: The presumptive starter sat out the spring game for personal reasons. If he wins the starting job, he’ll have big shoes to fill as the Seahawks’ fourth starter in four years, after dual-threat talents Jacob Jackson and Cameron Stoltz and 1,000-yard rusher Josh Zifer.
5. Land O’Lakes
Photo: Fivay's Davion Sutton