MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at a football district a day. Today: Class 5A, District 8.
Listed in order of 2011 finish, with overall/district record
Jesuit (11-2, 8-0)
Robinson (9-3, 7-1)
Lakewood (6-4, 5-3)
Spoto (6-4, 5-3)
Dunedin (4-6, 3-5)
Blake (4-6, 3-5)
Gibbs (3-7, 3-5)
Lennard (2-8, 2-6)
Middleton (0-10, 0-8)
Did you know?
With nine schools each, this district and 2A-5 (Admiral Farragut, Carrollwood Day, etc.) are the state’s largest. Each 5A-8 school opens and closes its season with a non-district foe, playing eight consecutive district games in between.
Four things to expect this fall
Citrus Bowl swan song? If Robinson benefits from a bit of planet aligning, the final season of veteran coach Mike DePue could end in the state finals in Orlando. DePue, a veritable Port Tampa lifer who is retiring from the classroom and coaching, returns his entire starting offensive front and some unheralded skill guys. The arrival of senior QB Zain Gilmore — son of the former Florida Mr. Football of the same name — from Blake doesn’t hurt.
Look out for Gibbs: Gladiators coach Antonio Knox is optimistic by nature, but he is really excited about this season. He said his team is loaded with skill players, including QB Patrick Jones, RB Emmanuel Stewart, DE/TE Maurice Hall and DB Albert Laskett. If the offensive and defensive lines can hold up, Gibbs could scare some teams in this district.
WWDD (What would Dunedin do)? Shaq Dixon and Tramaine Batten form one of the strongest backfields in the area, but can they carry the Falcons all season? Dunedin did enough well in the spring to be optimistic, but it will be interesting to see what kind of offense it runs and whether the defense can hold on.
Tigers in transition? Depending on whom you ask, reigning champ Jesuit shapes up as the district’s colossal favorite or question mark. The roster features at least a half-dozen D-I players, but burly senior QB Leland Saile is new, and no one outside of Corral Memorial Stadium knows how this co-offensive coordinator thing (Vinny Testaverde, James Jones) will work.
Players to watch
WR Rodney Adams, Lakewood: The Florida commit, who had more than 700 yards receiving and seven TDs last season, has QB Tracy Johnson throwing to him again.
RB/CB Emmanuel Stewart, Gibbs: After missing all except two games last season with a knee injury, Stewart is healthy again and will be used all over the field, according to coach Antonio Knox. He’ll play running back, slot receiver, cornerback and maybe even quarterback.
WR/S Travis Johnson, Jesuit: The 6-foot-4 Miami commitment, who projects as a tight end for the long term, can line up at any receiver spot. His seven interceptions last season led the district.
LB/TE Vincent Jackson, Jesuit: This brawny (6-3, 235) junior, who had eight sacks in 2011, is the Tigers’ most coveted college prospect behind Johnson. When he creeps up to the line, he and senior Brad Smith form the district’s most formidable defensive end tandem.
RB/SS Martin Ruiz, Robinson: After very quietly running for nearly 800 yards last season, Ruiz, who will double at safety, appears poised to eclipse 1,000 this fall. “I think he’s just going to have that breakout season,” DePue said, “and he’s got a great supporting cast around him.”
Mark your calendar
Robinson at Jesuit, Sept. 14: This game has decided the district title each of the last three seasons, and might again, though who can say for sure in early September? What we can say with certainty: arrive early for this one.
“This is the biggest offensive line in the history of Robinson High School.” — DePue, whose front five (all returning starters) will average 6-2, 263 pounds
Also in this series:
Rodney Page and Joey Knight, Times staff writers