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After most of the private schools played last week, the Pinellas County public schools get their turn with spring games or jamborees Thursday or Friday. (Lakewood and Pinellas Park are the lone teams playing next week)
Here’s a quick primer on the teams, players and positions to follow as spring practice concludes.
Five intriguing teams
Countryside: The Cougars have won 25 straight regular-season games dating to 2009. But this team lost nearly every major contributor at the skill positions. The big plus is that four of five starting linemen return.
Dixie Hollins: After years of struggling, the Rebels have the athletes to do some things offensively with Kabriel Jackson, Demondre Lambert and Melvin Love. It could be enough to contend for a playoff berth.
Dunedin: The Falcons showed some signs of life last season, winning four games. They have one of the best backfields in the county, led by Tramaine Batten.
East Lake: Everybody knows about the Eagles’ skill players. But the team still has some questions along the offensive and defensive lines.
Gibbs: Injuries decimated the Gladiators, who lost four players to ACL tears and limped to a 3-7 record last season. Gibbs is healthier now and has one of the county’s most athletic defenses. But the spring game is a tough test against Class 7A defending state champion Bradenton Manatee.
Four players to watch
WR/DB Devin Abraham, East Lake: Abraham shined as a defensive back last season. He will need to be even more of a leader in the secondary after the Eagles graduated both cornerbacks.
QB Juwan Brown, Largo: He was impressive in a scrimmage against CCC two weeks ago but will have to show off his mobility early on to compensate for an inexperienced offensive line.
RB Maurice Hemingway, St. Petersburg: After rushing for more than 900 yards last season, Hemingway figures to increase that total considering David Jones, the team’s second-leading rusher, is graduating.
TE/LB Auggie Sanchez, Northeast: The Vikings’ best player can be used in a variety of ways and will wreak havoc off the edge on defense after registering more than 20 sacks last season.
Three key positions
Palm Harbor University’s backfield: The Hurricanes graduate their leading passer (Billy Pavlock), rusher (Ryan Myers) and receiver (Hunter Beam). Tyler Kaminski and Brevet Killett are battling to start at quarterback. Connor Dorris and Quentin Cummings are the leading candidates to be the featured back.
Largo’s offensive line: Never known as a team with much depth, the Packers are going to be thin up front after losing four starters. Johnny Williams is the only returner. That’s going to put some pressure on quarterback Juwan Brown and running backs Derrick Doss and Harry Brown.
Tarpon Springs’ defense: There are concerns at the skill positions, but the defense was the unit that needed the most work after allowing 20 or more points in seven of the final games last season. Part of that can be attributed to being young, and the Spongers return seven starters, including defensive tackle Orlando Brown.
Two trends to remember
Backfields by committee: For the past few years, teams have relied on one back to handle the bulk of the rushing load. Not this season. Countryside, Dunedin, East Lake and Largo all have a stable of backs they plan to use in different packages. That will help with fatigue with many of those backs playing both ways.
Stability among coaches: There was only one coaching change among county public schools this offseason. And that wasn’t much of a change considering Ron Hawn coached Tarpon Springs most of last season and had the interim tag removed in December. Without a shakeup, coaches and teams have some continuity to build something this spring.
Palm Harbor University beats Boca Ciega, proving that last year’s run under coach Matt LePain was not a fluke.
Spring game slate
• Seminole, Northeast at Dunedin, 7
• Community School of Naples at Calvary, 7
• Tarpon Springs at Countryside, 7
• Clearwater at Largo, 7
• Palm Harbor University at Boca Ciega, 7
• Gibbs at Bradenton Manatee, 7
• Central at Dixie Hollins, 7
• Osceola at East Lake, 7
• St. Petersburg at Bradenton Bayshore, 7:30