The new football districts are pretty screwy (8A? Really?) and shake up the matchups we’ve come to know and love over the past few years. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at a district a day. Up today: Class 3A, District 5.
• Berkeley Prep
• Clearwater Central Catholic
• St. Petersburg Catholic
• Tampa Catholic
Out with the old
Polk County small-school juggernaut Fort Meade, winner of a district title every year this millennium, moves to District 6 with Lakeland Christian. Indian Rocks Christian joins a local 2A mega district (nine teams).
In with the new
Tampa Catholic arrives from its former journeyman 2B district, intensifying its rivalry with CCC and SPC, the latter of which arrives from 2A. Needing no additional intensity is TC-Berkeley. Bucs coach Dominick Ciao formerly coached — and annually tormented the Crusaders — at Jesuit. …The only new coach is St. Petersburg Catholic’s Steve Dudley, who came over from Canterbury. …CCC and SPC will have new starting quarterbacks.
Five things to expect this fall
Citrus Bowl or bust: Behind three-way sensation Nelson Agholor and a veteran supporting cast of skill players, Berkeley Prep appears poised for a state title run. The only glaring road blocks appear to be a green offensive front and a likely second-round playoff date with Fort Meade.
Reversing trend: John Davis-coached teams are known for having pass-friendly offenses, but CCC’s quarterback situation still is unsettled. So the Marauders will rely more on a power running game and punishing defense.
Young and ready? Tampa Catholic started a handful of freshmen last season, including quarterback Chivarsky Corbett and tackle Cory Martinez. This year, their experience on defense, led by seniors Taylor Timmons (DL) and Tyree Holder (CB), will have to carry TC early, but the Crusaders are determined to show the future is now.
De-fense! de-fense! St. Petersburg Catholic’s downfall last year was a defense that had a hard time making tackles in the open field and allowed nearly 40 points per game. Dudley has made the defense a priority and plans to use his best athletes on that side of the ball, including RB Ryan Green, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the spring game against Indian Rocks Christian.
Winning tradition: Every team in the district has made the region semifinals at least once in the past six seasons. Last year Berkeley Prep, CCC and Tampa Catholic had winning records and return most of their notable starters.
Players to watch
ATH Nelson Agholor, Berkeley Prep: Bay area’s most highly recruited player will go three ways.
QB Chivarsky Corbett, Tampa Catholic: Sophomore leads young, athletic offense.
RB Justin Goodloe, Clearwater Central Catholic: Will go from being primarily a runner to an all-around threat.
RB Ryan Green, St. Petersburg Catholic: 1,000-yard rusher already has offers from FSU and Kentucky.
QB Destin Nichols, Berkeley Prep: Efficient senior entering fourth season as a starter.
Mark your calendars
Berkeley Prep at Clearwater Central Catholic, Oct. 21: Forget that this could be the de facto district title game; the coaching matchup of Ciao and Davis is hype worthy in itself.
“I wish Berkeley and Tampa Catholic were not in the same district. They’re both strong. But we would play all these teams whether they were in the same district or not. We just have to get better to play with these guys.” — Davis.
1. Berkeley Prep
2. Clearwater Central Catholic
3. Tampa Catholic
4. St. Petersburg Catholic
Bob Putnam, Joey Knight and Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writers
Also in the series so far:
Class 2A, District 5