We’re breaking down a football district a day. Today: Class 7A, District 8.
Must-see game: Durant at Plant City, Sept. 20. The crosstown rivals open district play with a contest that — like all the others — will hold humongous postseason implications. For those counting, the series is tied 3-3 in the past six years. The Raiders embarrassed Durant, 23-0, in the spring jamboree at Armwood. We anticipate seeing a different Cougars team in this game.
Three story lines
November breakthrough? For all the talent that has converged in Plant City’s huddle in recent years (i.e. Bennie Coney, Dazmond Patterson, Denzel Drone), the Raiders have no postseason victories to show for it. Plant City hasn’t won a playoff game since 1999, when current Durant athletic director Todd Long was coach. Early indications are the Raiders have the talent, especially on defense, to end their playoff skid. Will they?
Berry infusion: As a result of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s biennial district realignment, this east Hillsborough district underwent a modest makeover. Newsome and Riverview are out (to 8A), Strawberry Crest is in (from 6A). On the heels of their mild breakthrough last fall (4-6), the Chargers shape up as a dark-horse district title candidate in ’13.
Reload, not rebuild: In one of the biggest surprises of 2012, Durant clinched its first undefeated regular season in school history. The year still ended on a disappointing note, however, when the Cougars dropped a region semifinal to rival Newsome at home. Durant seems well-equipped to make a deeper playoff run this fall, returning quarterback Trey Vandergrift, two potential stars in the backfield and several all-district linemen.
Players to watch
John Broome, DE, Plant City. While 330-pound Alabama commitment Montel McBride draws raves from recruitniks, Broome has quietly emerged as a force on the edge. A 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior with three offers, Broome has excelled on the summer camp circuit, his coaches say, and had two sacks in the jamboree in the first six plays against Durant.
Tristan Hyde, QB, Strawberry Crest. Hyde flourished as a sophomore in John Kelly’s West Coast-style offense last fall, throwing for more than 2,100 yards and 20 TDs. But defenses will adjust to the quick drops and short passes (Armwood picked him off four times in the spring jamboree). Kelly insists the Chargers have some adjustments of their own.
John Hendricks, RB, Durant. The graduation of Jamarlon Hamilton, who rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns the past three seasons, means the Cougars have plenty of carries to go around this fall. In steps Hendricks, who transferred from Newsome after totaling 1,012 yards of offense and six touchdowns in 2012. He’ll give Durant a powerful 1-2 punch with junior Chris Atkins, who rushed for 821 yards and 10 TDs last year.
1. Plant City
3. Strawberry Crest
4. East Bay
Joel Anderson and Joey Knight, Times staff writers
Photo: Strawberry Crest's Tristan Hyde