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. We’re taking a look at a district a day, with Class 7A, District 8 on tap today.
• East Bay
• Plant City
Out with the old
Bloomingdale moves up to Class 8A from the old 5A-6, which was an all-eastern Hillsborough County district.
In with the new
East Bay moves up from 4A and comes into a district more geographically fit for the Indians. Brandon also doesn’t change classes (the Eagles were in the old 5A class), but also finds itself in a district closer to home instead of heading north to play old district foes TBT, Wharton and Freedom.
Five things to expect in the fall
A close race: Newsome, Plant City and Brandon advanced to the playoffs last season, and Durant was just out of the mix. This figures to be a very competitive district that will be heavy on a physical brand of football. As in past seasons, the district winner will have to prove it’s the toughest.
Raider nation: The last two seasons, Plant City was on the doorstep of being a district champion. Last year’s runnerup team returns a lot of athleticism, and this might be the season the Raiders break through.
Running with the Wolves: Newsome heads into the fall having won three straight district titles, going 12-0 in district play in that span. But the Wolves will have to replace 28 seniors, including the school’s all-time leading rusher in Conner Powers.
A new chief at East Bay: After 17 years coaching the Indians, Brian Thornton steps away, but East Bay handed the reins to defensive coordinator Frank LaRosa, an assistant under Thornton for six years.
A tough region: The past two years, this district has been matched up with Plant in the region tournament. With the Panthers’ move up to 8A, these teams won’t have to get past Plant to advance to a region final. That’s the good news. The bad news: They will likely see Lakeland.
Players to watch
RB Dazmond Patterson, Plant City: He’s undersized, but we have 1,751 reasons (his total offensive yards last year) why he might be the county’s best all-around back.
QB Bennie Coney, Plant City: Talented signal caller, returning to the team after a discipline-filled junior season, looking to make more headlines on the field than off.
WR Lamarlin Wiggins, Plant City: This USF commit has size (6-3, 180 pounds) and big-play capability.
RB Keller Powers, Newsome: Brother of Conner Powers averaged 7.4 yards per carry last year and will be the main figure in the Wolves’ wing-T offense.
QB/LB Will Worth, Newsome: Good things happen for Newsome when this two-way talent is on the field; he’s a field general on both sides of the ball.
RB Jamarlon Hamilton, Durant: Top returning rusher (507 yards) and scorer (nine TDs) will play big role in Cougars’ run-oriented attack.
RB/LB Tyrell Garner, Brandon: Replacing 1,300-yard rusher Darius Lee won’t be easy, but two-way player Garner has the skills to do it on offense.
DB D’Andre Franklin, Brandon: Fourth-year varsity player can play anywhere on defense. He’s played DL, LB, S and CB.
Mark your calendars
Newsome at Plant City, Nov. 4: The scheduling gods offered this dramatic matchup: Plant City’s athleticism against Newsome’s will to win in the district finale. We think the winner wins the district title.
“I think it’s going to be a good district. We’re all from the same area. They kept everybody together so we don’t have to travel that far. We’re all competitive. I think every year, it’s going to be a different two or three teams fighting for it. It’s going to be who’s got the seniors that year. I think it’s going to be real competitive up and down.” — Brandon coach John Lima
1. Plant City
5. East Bay
Also in the series so far:
Class 2A, District 5