We’re breaking down a football district a day. Today: Class 7A, District 7.
Tampa Bay Tech
Tampa Bay Tech at Gaither, Oct. 25. This will be a rematch of the 35-32 thriller narrowly won by Gaither last year after squandering a 35-10 third-quarter lead. The game cost the Titans their fourth straight district championship and handed the Cowboys the district’s top seed. Gaither graduated a lot of its offensive firepower but still has QB Alex McGough, an FIU commit, who could make things interesting against TBT.
Three story lines
Greetings, Gryphons: The Florida High School Athletic Association’s biennial district realignment nearly left 7A-7 unscathed. The lone changeup: Sickles is in, Chamberlain is out. Watch the Gryphons, winners of at least seven games each of the past four years, to jostle with TBT, Gaither and perhaps a dark horse (Steinbrenner? Freedom?) for district supremacy.
Remember the Titans? After falling short of its fourth straight district title last fall, TBT has reloaded with one of the bay area’s most talented rosters. The Titans have no fewer than a handful of major-college prospects, including USF commit Tajee Fullwood. If junior quarterback Deon Cain can develop as a passer and the Titans can shore up some weaknesses on defense, they could reclaim the district crown.
Bulls building: Wiregrass Ranch has struggled through two winless seasons but showed signs of life this spring under new coach Mike Lawrence, a former Kansas State running back. The Bulls’ increased discipline helped lead to spring mini-game victories over Wesley Chapel and Sunlake. Expect Wiregrass to emerge from the North Suncoast’s cellar.
Players to watch
Issac Holder, QB, Sickles. Coach Brian Turner has raved about Holder’s promise since his transfer from Jesuit after the 2011 season. A rising junior, Holder played sparingly behind veteran Nate Mills last season. Now, he’s the Gryphons’ guy, and Turner has surrounded him with all the components he needs to flourish.
Fred Russ, LB, Tampa Bay Tech. The 5-foot-10, 220-pound senior will fortify the center of the Titans’ defense, which has struggled against some of the area’s powerhouses in recent years. TBT allowed an average of 30 points in its four defeats last season. Russ, an FIU commit, should help turn that around.
John Harris-Scott, RB, Wiregrass Ranch. The senior broke out in the spring jamboree with 100 rushing yards and his team’s only touchdown. He could serve as a good complement to QB Shane Bucenell, one of Pasco County’s most talented passers.
6. Wiregrass Ranch
Joel Anderson and Joey Knight, Times staff writers
Photo: Sickles' Issac Holder