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 5A, District 6.
• Wesley Chapel
Out with the old
With five of eight teams returning — Anclote, Gulf, Pasco, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills — the new district closely resembles last season’s 3A-7. Gone, however, are Land O’Lakes and its 14-year playoff streak; Sunlake, which would have made the postseason in 2010 if not stuck in the same district as Land O’Lakes and Pasco; and Mitchell, which has finished .500 or above four straight years.
In with the new
Of the three newcomers — Fivay, Hudson and Ridgewood — the Falcons might make the greatest impact despite starting just its first full season of varsity football thanks to larger-than-expected participation numbers in the spring. Hudson last made the playoffs in 2009 but barely had enough players to field a squad in the spring. Ridgewood will find out what life is like without 1,200-yard rusher Cameron Rodriguez. …Gulf is the only team with a new coach, longtime Land O’Lakes assistant Tom Carter.
Five things to expect in the fall
Plundering Pirates: Despite heavy losses on both lines and in the secondary, Pasco is the clear favorite to win a fifth straight district championship thanks to a handful of explosive playmakers and a quarterback that can get them the ball.
Tossup: The real battle will be to see which team finishes second. Every team in the district has to feel pretty good about its playoff chances, which should make for an exciting slate of district games.
Sharks circling: Anclote is as good a pick as any to earn the runnerup spot. The Sharks’ offense should be running on all cylinders with Division I-A recruit Dondre Daley and Gulf transfer Chris Gregory at wideout, the elusive Alonzo Pettiford in the backfield and experienced quarterback John Forgione leading the group.
Hit the ground running: Wesley Chapel struggled to run the ball consistently and protect its quarterback in passing situations last season because of an inconsistent offensive line. But the Wildcats are much improved at that position and should have one of the county’s better rushing attacks.
Lurking in the shadows: Zephyrhills is the only team not participating in the summer’s Pasco County 7-on-7 league, and the Bulldogs’ absence could help them surprise some teams come fall. Zephyrhills has good numbers and is more athletic than in past seasons.
Players to watch
WR Dondre Daley, Anclote: Could finish as the leading receiver on the North Suncoast.
ATH Trey Dudley-Giles, Pasco: Multi-talented offensive weapon has offers from Rutgers, FAU, East Carolina and Eastern Michigan.
RB David Emmanuel, Pasco: Rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season as a sophomore.
QB Jacob Guy, Pasco: As a junior, Guy threw for more than 2,000 yards and guided Pirates to undefeated regular season.
OL/DL Jeff Kruse, Gulf: Ivy League recruit might be the brainiest and brawniest player on the North Suncoast.
Mark your calendars
Fivay at Anclote, Sept. 23: Hard to believe that Pasco County’s newest football additions with just a handful of varsity games under their belts could be in the running for a postseason bid. Both teams, however, have a good chance of earning the runnerup spot with the winner of this early-season matchup gaining the upper hand.
“Anybody can win (the district). That’s the way we look at it. Pasco had some key athletes graduate. They’re still pretty stocked with athletes. But for the most part, anybody can win it. That’s high school football anyway, or the way it should be. Any Friday night, anybody can win under the lights.” — Zephyrhills coach Reggie Roberts
3. Wesley Chapel
Also in the series so far:
Class 2A, District 5