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 9 on tap today.
• Pinellas Park
• St. Petersburg
Out with the old
East Lake and Palm Harbor University move up one classification and Dunedin moves down two from the previous district (formerly Class 5A-8). Gibbs moves down two classifications and out of what was known as 5A-9.
In with the new
Northeast, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg and Seminole remain from 5A-9. Clearwater and Countryside move in from 5A-8.
Five things to expect this fall
Countryside will still be dominant: Forget that the Cougars lost plenty of stars to graduation, including lineman Tyler Moore, defensive back Alex Dixon and linebacker Terry Johnson. There still is enough talent to make another deep playoff run. The offense has weapons galore and they were all on display in a 49-14 dismantling of St. Petersburg in the spring game.
St. Petersburg’s playoff hopes hinge on Jones’ health: With nearly the entire offensive line graduating along with the top two runners, quarterback David Jones is the most important player returning. He missed the spring game with a hamstring injury and his absence was felt in a loss to Countryside. The Green Devils need him on the field to take advantage of his athleticism.
Pinellas Park will stay in postseason contention: After consecutive 5-5 seasons, the Patriots are trying to take the next step in their rebuilding process and make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They have the talent with Jeremi Powell and Iman Smith returning to form the best receiving and linebacker duo in the county.
Northeast will be a different team: The Austin era is over after 33 years. The new regime is led by former Clearwater Central Catholic and Leto coach Mike Jalazo. The offense will eschew its run-first philosophy and go to more of a spread attack under offensive coordinator Dan Mancuso, a former St. Petersburg Catholic coach.
A lot of holes on offense for Clearwater, Seminole: Both teams lost nearly every major skill player on offense and it showed as both lost in the spring.
Players to watch
QB Gray Crow, Countryside: Miami commit is more comfortable in second year in the offense and should put up big numbers.
QB David Jones, St. Petersburg: Track star will be counted on as a dual threat for depleted offense.
WR/LB Jeremi Powell, Pinellas Park: Florida recruit will be a leader on both sides of the ball.
TE/DL Auggie Sanchez, Northeast: Team’s best player will not leave the field too often.
WR/LB Iman Smith, Pinellas Park: Enjoyed a meteoric rise this summer with several Division I-A offers.
LB Adam Vinson, Countryside: Top returning player for underrated Cougars defense.
Mark your calendars
St. Petersburg at Countryside, Nov. 4: This has become one of the most heated rivalries the past two seasons and that was just when they played in a meaningless spring game. Now they meet in the final district game for both teams with a lot more at stake.
“This district is going to be difficult. There are a lot of strong teams. It’s definitely one that will prepare us for the playoffs if we are able to get there.” — Countryside coach Jared Davis
2. Pinellas Park
3. St. Petersburg
Also in the series so far:
Class 2A, District 5