We’re breaking down a football district a day. Today: Class 6A, District 8.
Must-see game: Armwood at Hillsborough, Sept. 12. After a string of one-sided losses in this series, the Terriers caught up with Armwood last season. Hillsborough’s 3-0 win in a regular-season grudge match was followed by a 9-7 defeat in the postseason. Expect yet another playoff atmosphere in this Thursday night affair at Chelo Huerta Field.
Three story lines
Another new Chief. After appearing to turn the corner (4-6) under new coach D.J. Mayo in 2012, Chamberlain finds itself in flux — again. Frustrated over teaching certification issues, Mayo took a small-college job in Polk County less than a week ago. He said he hopes a Chiefs assistant — Trae Gentile or Cam Jones — succeeds him, but principal Tommy Morrill said the search will be wide open. How the players respond to this latest transition — the new coach will be the school’s fourth since the end of 2008 — is anyone’s guess.
Do we hear 50? The 2013 season marks Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia’s 40th season in the high school ranks, either as a head coach or assistant. A grandfather of two, he shows nary a sign of burnout, calling the three hours he spends with his players each day “a vacation” from life’s headaches. He enters 2014 needing 41 wins to match Billy Turner’s county record of 255.
Farewell, 5A: The Florida High School Athletic Association’s biennial reclassification moved reigning 5A-8 champ Robinson into this crammed district, where it will compete as one of the state’s smallest — population-wise — 6A programs. New coach Shawn Taylor has some rebuilding to do, especially on the line of scrimmage, but the Port Tampa program still has enough talent to make things interesting against the district heavyweights.
Players to watch
Juwuan Brown, OLB/TE, Jefferson. The most intriguing college prospect on Jefferson’s roster, Brown (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) already has roughly 20 offers based on his upside alone. In his first varsity season as a junior last fall, he had eight sacks and 13 total tackles for loss. Scary part is, he’s still learning the game, coach Jeremy Earle says.
Anthony Davis, OLB, Chamberlain. With the program seeking yet another coach, the Chiefs will need Davis’ leadership as much as his strength (300-pound bench press) and agility (42-inch vertical leap). A senior, Davis (5-11, 210) reportedly has seven offers including USF and West Virginia.
Noah Johnson, QB, Armwood. So much of the Hawks’ fortunes will hinge on how effectively this 6-foot junior performs in his first year as a starter. So far, the returns have been favorable; Johnson was MVP of the 16-team Battle of the Bay 7-on-7 tournament. Coach Sean Callahan says he throws like Ron Buskey (FAMU) and runs like Mywan Jackson (North Carolina), both former Armwood QBs.
Dwayne Lawson, QB, Hillsborough. Barring any kind of calamity, this 6-5 junior could go down as one of the top Terriers ever. Yeah, he’s that good. Just ask Callahan, who watched Lawson gut the Hawks for 241 total yards in the Terriers’ win in October. Lawson has size, agility and one of the best arms around.
Joey Knight and Joel Anderson, Times staff writers
Photo: Hillsborough's Dwayne Lawson