We’re breaking down a football district a day. Today: Class 8A, District 6
Alonso at Wharton, Oct. 18: With Plant an overwhelming favorite to capture its ninth consecutive district crown, this midseason clash shapes up as a playoff elimination game. (Disclaimer: Newsome faces both teams before this date and could really muddle the picture.) An Alonso victory here would be its first against Wharton in seven meetings.
Three story lines
Make way for the Wolves: A four-team district before the FHSAA’s bi-annual realignment process, 8A-6 becomes far more interesting with the addition of two more teams, namely Newsome. We’re not backing off our pick of Plant to win it all, but we couldn’t confidently predict the district runnerup if a paycheck depended on it.
Name tags needed: At least four of the district’s six teams will feature a first-year starter at quarterback. Perhaps the most notable transition will occur at Newsome, where fleet 5-foot-11 junior Spencer Preston replaces indefatigable all-state Navy signee Will Worth (2,608 total yards in 2012). Elsewhere, 6-1 Plant senior Colby Brown, who threw for 470 yards in relief of Aaron Banks last season, could flourish behind arguably the Panthers’ best offensive line ever.
Taking the fifth? Plant’s quest for a fifth state title in eight seasons grew considerably more difficult when the FHSAA reclassified its member schools. Bradenton juggernaut Manatee moves up to 8A and conceivably would face Plant in a region final — if the Panthers get that far. Orlando Dr. Phillips, which defeated Plant 24-7 in last season’s second round, lost some key components but remains loaded with athleticism. Oh, and reigning 8A champ Apopka’s still around.
Players to watch
Ish Witter, RB, Alonso: One of the sturdiest backs around, Witter (5-8, 190), who boasts a 335-pound bench press and roughly 20 scholarship offers, ran for 900 yards last season. Presumably, the Ravens would love to see him reach 1,000 to help promising new QB Chris Oladokun make the transition to starter.
Jake Fruhmorgen, OL, Plant: A second-generation behemoth (his dad played tackle for both Alabama and the Miami Dolphins), Fruhmorgen (6-5, 278) already has a bushel of offers. Recently ranked 158th on ESPN’s list of the nation’s top rising juniors, Fruhmorgen and senior Tennessee commit Ray Raulerson form what could go down as one of the best tackle tandems in county lore.
Antonio Joseph, DE, Wharton: A 6-5, 195-pound rising senior, Joseph provided Wildcat coaches with perhaps the lone reason to grin during their shutout loss to Tampa Bay Tech in the spring jamboree. He deflected seven passes last season, and seemed to have that many in one half against the Titans. With some added bulk, Joseph could launch himself into major college consideration.
Aaron Wade, DB/WR, Newsome: This rangy (6-2, 188) two-way force probably inherits the title of Wolves’ top all-around player now that Worth has graduated. As a junior, Wade notched 77 tackles at safety, tied for the team lead in interceptions (three) and led the Wolves with 255 receiving yards.
Photo: Wharton's Antonio Joseph pressures Alonso's Brandon Hawkins last fall.