We’re breaking down a football district a day — from 2A to 8A. Today: Class 7A, District 8.
Listed in order of 2011 finish, with overall/district record
1. Durant (7-4, 4-1)
2. Brandon (6-5, 4-1)
3. Plant City (7-3, 3-2)
4. Newsome (6-4, 3-2)
5. East Bay (4-6, 1-4)
6. Riverview (2-8, 0-5)
Did you know?
This east Hillsborough conglomeration has made precious little playoff noise since the turn of the century, accounting for seven total postseason wins since 2000. In the past six years, the teams have totaled one playoff triumph (Newsome, 2010).
Three things to expect this fall
Shark sighting: Mired in mediocrity the last few years, Riverview might — just might — be poised for a rejuvenation under new coach Mike Thornton. Brandishing an option-based offense, the Sharks edged Lennard 15-14 in the spring jamboree. Hey, it’s a start.
Derby at Durant: The Cougars enter Monday’s opening day of drills with a QB duel between lanky rising senior Zach Stephenson and Strawberry Crest transfer Ty Vandegrift, coach Mike Gottman said. Vandegrift has more playing experience, but Stephenson — a backup to Nick Fabrizio last season — probably knows Gottman’s system better. Stay tuned.
Eychner era dawns: After 16 years as a Hillsborough assistant, Dean Eychner gets his first crack at a head-coaching gig at Brandon. A defensive guy who has lived in the area for two decades, Eychner should help fortify a unit that allowed more than 30 points a game last season. Respected veteran Jim Wilt, himself a former Eagles head coach, will run the offense.
Players to watch
QB/LB Will Worth, Newsome: No county player means more to his program than this indefatigable senior. Last season, Worth led the Wolves in passing yards (925), rushing yards (1,020) and tackles (74).
RB Cyrus Dooley, Brandon: This Mike Alstott clone stepped up in a huge way when injuries thrust him into extensive ball-carrying duty in the second half of the 2011 season. Dooley collected 597 yards in the final five games, propelling Brandon into the playoffs.
FB Jamarlon Hamilton, Durant: A bruising 1,100-yard rusher as a junior, Hamilton (5-10, 195 pounds) collected more than 100 in one quarter against Strawberry Crest in the spring jamboree.
DT Devyn Salmon, Plant City: A destroyer of double teams, Salmon (6-1, 285) has committed to Michigan State, where he’ll join former Raider Denzel Drone.
“I think …obviously the front-runner is going to be Newsome this year with what they have returning, but even outside of that, on any given Friday anybody can step up and win this district. It’s very competitive, more competitive than I’ve seen in a long time because of the level playing field.” — Plant City coach Wayne Ward
Mark your calendar
Brandon at Newsome, Oct. 5: The Eagles, who entered last season’s meeting with a suspect defense and stung pride, amassed nearly 400 rushing yards and stuffed the Wolves on three fourth-down attempts in a 34-0 embarrassment. Newsome has had an entire offseason to think about it.
3. Plant City
5. East Bay
Also in this series: