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. The next few weeks we’ll be taking a look at a district a day. Up today: Class 6A, District 7.
• Boca Ciega
• Dixie Hollins
• Lakewood Ranch
• Tarpon Springs
Out with the old
Sickles and Leto, which made up half of the old district, stayed in the same classification (formerly 4A), but moved into a more formidable district (6A-8) that includes Armwood and Jefferson.
In with the new
Boca Ciega and Largo are the holdovers. Tarpon Springs stays in the same classification but will now play mostly Pinellas County opponents instead of Pasco and Bradenton, respectively. Dixie Hollins and Osceola leap up a class.
Five things to expect this fall
Largo will be on top: With 14 returning starters, the Packers have the talent and experience to win their seventh straight district title. The only concern is keeping everyone healthy. Quarterback Juwan Brown missed half of last season and RB/LB Derrick Doss missed the spring game because of knee injuries.
Tarpon Springs will be pass happy: Quarterback Louis Pappas is more comfortable running the offense under second-year coach Atif Austin. And he has reliable targets in Runaldo Wright and Kenyatta Merriex. That has the Spongers thinking pass first, and they should put the ball in the air enough to lead the district in passing.
Boca Ciega will be improved: New coach Antez Brinson is stressing the running game and has put an emphasis on improving special teams. Shoring up those units will help the Pirates pull out more close games after losing four last year by a combined five points.
Lakewood Ranch will be the wild card: After going 1-9 in 2008, Lakewood Ranch has put together consecutive winning seasons and returns 41 of its 57 players from last year’s roster.
Dixie Hollins and Osceola to open up offense: Both teams are blessed with an abundance of skill kids and plan to take advantage of that by going to more of a spread attack. That’s quite a change for the Warriors, who have always run the wing-T under longtime coach George Palmer.
Five players to watch
QB Juwan Brown, Largo: Rebounded from injury with solid performance in spring.
RB/LB Derrick Doss, Largo: Punishing runner and tackler will become more of a leader.
RB/LB Elijah McClendon, Boca Ciega: Because of injuries, McClendon will be used in a variety of ways on defense, including at safety.
QB Louis Pappas, Tarpon Springs: Has the chance to break some school passing records this season.
RB Jarvis Stewart, Largo: Rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman despite not starting until midseason.
Mark your calendar
Tarpon Springs at Largo, Nov. 4: In 2009, the Spongers were one of two teams to beat the Packers in the regular season. Last year, Largo exacted revenge in a wild 51-35 victory. Now the stakes are even higher with both teams in the same district.
“I like the district because there are more teams and the competition should be better. Those are five pretty good teams we face. We’ll definitely have to work to win another district title.” — Largo coach Rick Rodriguez
2. Tarpon Springs
3. Lakewood Ranch
4. Boca Ciega
5. Dixie Hollins
Also in the series so far:
Class 2A, District 5