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Hillsborough: 2014 football preview

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Thu. August 14, 2014 | Kelly Parsons

Hillsborough: 2014 football preview

Hillsborough

Coach: Earl Garcia (21st season, 183-48; 28th overall, 216-86)

Last season: 9-2

Class/district: 6A-8

Colors: Red, black and white 

Stadium: Marcelino “Chelo” Huerta Field, 5000 Central Ave., Tampa

Playoff history: 1968, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Last appearance: Lost 9-7 to Armwood.

Season schedule 

Sept. 5 vs. Jefferson, 7:30 

Sept. 12 at Armwood, 7:30 

Sept. 19 vs. Leto, 7:30

Sept. 26 at Lennard, 7:30 

Oct. 2 vs. King, 7

Oct. 10 at Chamberlain, 7:30 

Oct. 17 vs. Blake, 7:30 

Oct. 24 at Durant, 7:30 

Oct. 31 at Robinson, 7:30 

Nov. 7 vs. Tampa Bay Tech, 7:30 

Mark your calendar

Hillsborough at Armwood, Sept. 12: Depending on how the Terriers’ game against Jefferson goes the week before, their matchup with last year’s 6A state runnerup could be make-or-break. Last year Hillsborough lost to both Jefferson and Armwood — the teams from the district that eventually advanced to the postseason. If Hillsborough beats Jefferson and can then top the Hawks, they’d essentially be district champs. If they lose to the Dragons, though, the Hawks could decide their postseason fate. 

Huddle highlights

0-2: For just the second time in coach Earl Garcia’s career, his team began the 2013 season 0-2, spending the rest of the fall digging its way out of a hole. Though it’s extremely possible with back-to-back games against Jefferson and Armwood to open the season, Garcia is determined not to let it happen again. 

Lawson’s domain: Lawson, a Miami commit, threw for 2,120 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, adding 1,068 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. His return for the third straight year as the Terriers’ starting quarterback is huge for Hillsborough’s offensive success.

Familiar targets: In addition to its Division I-bound quarterback, Hillsborough returns most of its skill players on offense, including six receivers who totaled at least 200 yards last season. And with an experienced quarterback throwing to them, the learning curve should be nonexistent. 

Postseason tradition: For decades, Hillsborough has been a consistently solid football program in Tampa Bay. In fact, last season was just the second time in 21 years the Terriers missed the playoffs, making the experience one Garcia doesn’t plan to relive. “That was an unhappy feeling; an uncomfortable feeling,” he said.

Known quantities

QB Dwayne Lawson, Sr.: Lawson’s 3,188 yards and 31 touchdowns also come with a huge amount of athleticism. The 6-foot-6, 215-pounder also excels in track and field, winning the 3A state title in the triple jump with a leap of more than 47 feet. As the leading passer and tackler in the district, Lawson should have no trouble helping Hillsborough hit the ground running.

LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Jr.: Referred to as the quarterback of the defense by Garcia, Al-Shaair recorded a team-leading 8.5 sacks and 110 tackles as a sophomore last season, 26 more than the next best Terrier. He’ll lead the way for a linebacker corp that should be even better than it was last year. 

RB Rudy Dawson, Jr.: As a sophomore, Dawson rushed for 119 yards on 20 carries and four touchdowns while finishing with 455 yards receiving and two more touchdowns through the air.  

DB/WR Xavier Byrd, Sr.: Byrd led Hillsborough in receiving last season, totaling 576 yards, and six touchdowns. The 5-foot-8, 154-pound athlete also added 20 tackles on the other side of the ball. 

DB/WR Jon Hughes, Jr.: Hughes is another big part of Hillsborough’s experienced group of receivers, ending last season with had 20 receptions for 473 yards and six touchdowns. Like Byrd, he also dabbled a bit on defense, coming up with eight tackles and three passes defended. 

Up-and-comers

ATH Lawrence Dawsey, Jr.: Son of Florida State wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey, the 5-foot-8, 150-pound Terrier might be small, but he has the potential to pack a lot of punch. Last year, Dawsey completed three passes for 65 yards and a touchdown while punting and kicking. This year, Lawson’s backup could also see some time at receiver while continuing to excel on special teams. 

OL Michael Hilliard, Jr.: Garcia was enthused about Hilliard’s progress during the spring, calling him the best and most consistent lineman on the squad. At 6-foot-3, 327, Hilliard’s sheer size should help Lawson do what he does best. 

DE Willie Lanier, Sr.: Lanier had 22 tackles last season, and after a good spring, Garcia expects even more out of his 6-foot-2, 208-pound defensive end in 2014. 

RB Michael Duclos, Sr.: The Terriers are in need of a go-to running back, and Duclos has the potential to be that guy. A recent transfer from Robinson, Duclos rushed for nearly 250 yards last season on a mediocre Knights squad. Surrounded by an offense chock full of talent at Hillsborough, Duclos could shine.

Coach’s corner

“We open up with Jefferson, Armwood, back-to-back. It’s basically a double-elimination tournament the first two games of the season. We need to win one out of the two. That’s basically the way it works out.” — Garcia

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