If the season ended today, these would be our player of the year finalists:
Ray Ray McCloud III, Sickles: Tampa Bay’s leading rusher (801 yards) has led the Gryphons to a 4-0 record — and been consistent in doing so. The junior has had between 185 and 201 yards in every game.
Deiondre Porter, Jefferson: Yeah, he’s coming off his worst game, but you can’t pin last week’s loss to Armwood on Porter, who had a great first half and was the victim of some dropped touchdown catches. He still managed more than 300 yards of offense and is on pace for a 2,000-yard passing/1,000 rushing season.
Landon Galloway, Plant City: The UCF commitment has been far better than anyone imagined in his transition from wide receiver to quarterback. The Raiders are 4-0, and Galloway may have had his best outing of the year last week, completing 14 of 17 passes for 158 yards.
Deon Thompson, Tampa Bay Tech: Coming into this season, the senior had only three career 100-yard rushing games. This year he already has two. And after four games in 2012 and 2011, he had 360 yards combined. This year through four games? 431.
Colby Brown, Plant: Though he threw for only 105 yards last week, he still averaged more than 300 yards passing the past two weeks. Brown has engineered a tie with nationally ranked Sandy Creek and set a slew of school records. Statistically, he belongs here.
Josh Black, Sickles: The focal point of one of Tampa Bay’s top defenses is second on the team with 34 tackles in four games and has nine sacks — that’s more than 10 county teams have total.
Chavez Pownell, Jefferson: Combine the senior defensive back’s offensive numbers (15 catches, 341 yards, two TDs) with 32 tackles, three interceptions and a sack in four games…and is anyone having a better all-around year?
Jordan Griffin, Armwood: Could pick Byron Cowart, Hyriam Frederick or Kyle Gibson here as well, but we’ll go with the playmaking junior middle linebacker and reserve this spot for the Hawks — Tampa Bay’s best defense — and the right to change our minds later.
Tajee Fullwood, Tampa Bay Tech: The senior is rising with a bullet after last week’s two-interception performance. A multi-dimensional standout, Fullwood has 10 catches for 222 yards and two scores, and both his picks last week came in the fourth quarter.
Shavar Manuel, Blake: The sophomore just gets sacks — at least one in every game this season and 9.5 on the year. In his still young career, he has had at least one sack in 11 of the 13 games he has played in.
1. Colby Brown completed 33 passes and threw for 517 yards in a win over Bloomingdale. Both marks shattered records held by some guys named Aaron Murray and Robert Marve.
2. Hillsborough quarterback Dwayne Lawson threw for 291 yards and ran for 124 yards, accounting for all three Terrier touchdowns and all but 39 yards of his team’s total offense in a loss to Jefferson.
3. Cambridge Christian’s Garrett Young completed 12 of 18 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, and also ran for 152 yards and three more scores in a win over Bishop McLaughlin.
4. Plant’s Alex Jackson was one of Brown’s favorite targets against Bloomingdale, catching five passes for 107 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown. He also rushed nine times for 145 more, including a 75-yard touchdown.
Five best games left on the schedule
Oct. 11, Sickles at Plant: This game will ultimately determine whether the general public buys into the Gryphons as being for real.
Oct. 25, Plant at Wharton: This has developed into a budding rivalry the past few years — thanks to rain, last year’s meeting took two days to complete — and this still has the Class 8A, District 6 championship written all over it. Of course, Newsome could render this point completely moot on Friday.
Oct. 25, Spoto at Middleton: Yeah, we know, these teams are a combined 0-9. But the winner is almost definitely headed off to the playoffs. And keep in mind the Tigers’ last four losses have only been by 11, three, six and four points.
Nov. 1, Tampa Bay Tech at Sickles: The 7A-7 championship will likely be on the line. TBT has only allowed four touchdowns through five games and will have a major challenge in Sickles, which boasts Tampa Bay’s top rusher (Ray Ray McCloud III) and an overlooked passing attack, led by Issac Holder.
Nov. 8, Tampa Catholic at Jesuit: After 13 straight losses, this is the year, right? Parade for new Tampa Catholic coach Mike Gregory? Immortalization for guys like Kyle Ploucher and T.J. Harrell? Green face paint for everyone? (Somewhere, Jesuit’s Vincent Jackson is shaking his head wondering “When will they ever learn?” and composing a tweet making fun of us for even suggesting the streak ends this year.)
Now we know their names
Shug Rhynes, Middleton: The 6-foot senior receiver ranks among the state’s leaders with 565 receiving yards and six touchdowns through four games. But his most impressive statistic? He’s averaging a ridiculous 38 yards per catch, including a pair of 90-plus-yard touchdown catches.
Keisean Young, Riverview: The junior quarterback is on pace for 1,000 yards, having rushed for 408 yards in four games. And that doesn’t count the 112 he rushed for in the preseason game. As a result, the Sharks are off to their best start in years at 2-2.
Jackson Kilcoyne, Plant: The 6-foot-2 defensive end already has eight sacks and six tackles for loss.
Willie Parker, Carrollwood Day: The Sickles transfer took a little while to get going, but now has three straight 100-yard rushing games.
Newsome backfield: We had no idea who would replace Player of the Year Will Worth, but Travis Hempstead, Chris Bryant and Ramsey Bennett have all pitched in. Combined, the trio has over 1,000 yards and 10 TDs, as well as four 100-yard games.
On the rise
Plant City: Behind Landon Galloway and massive Bama commit Montel McBride, the Raiders (4-0) have already equaled their win total for last season and shut out Wharton and Bloomingdale. Plant City looks ready to end a two-year playoff drought.
Armwood: After a rough 9-4 2012 season, the Hawks are undeniably back. They’re the only Tampa Bay team ranked nationally by Rivals (No. 80). Byron Cowart, Jordan Griffin and Vanderbilt commit Kyle Gibson lead a defense that has forced 11 turnovers while allowing only 23 points.
Sickles: The unbeaten Gryphons are the team to beat in 7A-7 and are looking more and more like they might have a playoff run in them.
Robinson: Now that the Knights have tucked away their 0-4 start against a schedule of Jefferson, Plant, Armwood and Sickles, expect the Knights to roll.
Durant: Another 0-4 starter, but we’re playing a hunch here and expect, somehow, the Cougars are going to stick their nose in the playoff race.
Justin Motlow, Tampa Catholic: The receiver has a reliable set of hands in the slot, which makes him any quarterback’s favorite. He has a touchdown in three games, and at least four catches in every game this season. Spectacular in his unspectacularness.
Hyriam Frederick, Armwood: Who? Yeah, exactly. But Frederick has been every bit the force that Byron Cowart has been at the opposite defensive end.
Jahrvis Davenport, Robinson: His Knights started 0-4, so it’s easy to lose track of Davenport. But the senior has quietly caught 17 passes for 379 yards and five touchdowns, while also returning a kickoff for a touchdown as well.
Isaiah McIntyre, Bloomingdale: He went from promising freshman to in the coaches’ doghouse in the offseason right back to promising sophomore. The quarterback has already been nominated a HomeTeam Hot Shot twice, and his performance in a loss to Plant was outstanding.
Chris Perez, Strawberry Crest: The senior led the Chargers in yards rushing (649) and touchdowns (11) last year, but is already 86 percent of the way there in yards (559) and 82 percent of the way there in touchdowns (nine) 50 percent of the way through the season. Perez is also working on a streak of three straight 100-yard games, equaling his total from last season, and has helped ease the midseason transition to a new quarterback.
QBs who lead their teams in passing and rushing
Deiondre Porter, Jefferson: (758 passing, 610 rushing)
Isaiah McIntyre, Bloomingdale: (609 passing, 218 rushing)
Garrett Young, Cambridge: (1,007 passing, 296 rushing)
Dwayne Lawson, Hillsborough: (696 passing, 338 rushing)
Landon Galloway, Plant City: (472 passing, 185 rushing)
Keisean Young, Riverview: (25 passing, 408 rushing)
Kevin Hobley, Spoto (449 passing, 105 rushing)
Tavares Chase, Plant City: The sophomore has three touchdowns on pass receptions, and three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He been a huge part of the Raiders’ hot start.
Jaaron Barrett, Sickles: The 6-1 senior wide receiver is giving a new dimension to Sickles’ offensive attack, with 11 catches for 285 yards and four touchdowns. Barrett is currently working on two straight 100-yard games.
Corey Bennett, Blake: Bennett had great promise back when he was a freshman at Tampa Catholic, but he is finally producing. He had 215 yards and one touchdown last year, but has carried the load for the Yellow Jackets this fall with 427 of the team’s 613 rushing yards and seven of their eight rushing scores.
Alex Jackson, Plant: His nickname is “Buda” and his performances this year have teammates wanting to rub his belly. The senior has 526 yards rushing and four touchdowns, more than 100 yards receiving and three plays longer than 50 yards.
Austin Carswell, Strawberry Crest: A wide receiver when the season started, Carswell has been thrust into the role of starting quarterback after Tristan Hyde tore his ACL. In his two games as a starter, Carswell has thrown for 241 yards and five touchdowns — including four in his first start — with no interceptions, but more importantly, two victories.
Michael Smith, Carrollwood Day: In one three-game stretch, Smith had 16 catches for 470 yards and four touchdowns. No wonder the Zephyrhills transfer leads the county in receiving.
1. What are the chances Armwood and Jefferson meet again in the playoffs? Answer: 55 percent, though Largo and Venice may have something to say about that. But we see a Largo-Jefferson or Venice-Jefferson first-round game as a tossup.
2. What are the chances Jesuit beats Tampa Catholic again? Answer: 30 percent, but as always with this series, it’s better to bet Blue, which is why 30 percent probably seems a little low.
3. What are the chances Plant makes a playoff run? Answer: Depends on your definition of run. If it’s two wins, then 85 percent. If it’s three wins or more, 40 percent, mainly because Bradenton Manatee will be in the way.
4. What are the chances Sickles beat Plant? Answer: 40 percent. We expect the Panthers will try to scheme Ray Ray McCloud III right out of the game. Can Sickles win with an average night from their best player if it happens?
5. What are the chances Leto finally wins a game? Answer: 7.5 percent. Leto has Armwood and Jefferson the next two weeks, but does have games remaining against winless Lennard, Middleton and Spoto. Plus, saying zero would have just been mean.
Fearless second-half predictions
1. Tampa Bay Tech rolls through the final five weeks and becomes the county’s best shot for a state title.
2. Tampa Catholic, though, gets there first, shocking Jacksonville Trinity Christian in the semifinals to make the Class 3A state final.
3. Alonso makes the playoffs.
4. Robinson, losers of their first four games, finishes at .500.
5. Armwood doesn’t allow anyone to score in double figures.
Photo: Jefferson's Chavez Pownell