Coach: Mark Kantor (third season, 9-12; 12th overall, 51-67)
Last season: 6-5
Colors: Gold and red
Stadium: Cobra Stadium, 14410 Cobra Way, Hudson
Playoff history: 1979, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2013
Last appearance: Lost 75-19 to Lakewood.
Aug. 29 vs. Central, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30
Sept. 12 at Weeki Wachee, 7:30
Sept. 19 vs. Wesley Chapel, 7:30
Oct. 3 at Gulf, 7:30
Oct. 10 vs. Land O’Lakes, 7:30
Oct. 17 at Ridgewood, 7:30
Oct. 24 at River Ridge, 7:30
Oct. 31 vs. Anclote, 7:30
Nov. 7 vs. Fivay, 7:30
Mark your calendar
Hudson at Gulf, Oct. 3: While we think the Oct. 24 game with River Ridge will ultimately decide a playoff spot or two, a rejuvenated Bucs squad has us feeling a little love for what used to be Pasco County’s hottest rivalry. The Cobras have owned this rivalry the past two seasons, outscoring Gulf 73-7. But this will be a must-win if the Cobras hope to make the playoffs again — and a must-win for the Bucs if they really have any hope of surprising everyone and competing in the district.
Yardage markers: The Cobras had one of their most prolific years rushing the ball last season, with more than 2,300 yards. But 2,000 of those yards graduated, leaving coach Mark Kantor in search of replacements. Junior Billy Werner (5-9, 175) is the only returning running back who had any carries last year, but Nate Munson is being moved to the backfield, quarterback Joey Caruso is a threat to run, and Kantor says he has other capable backs. “We’re still figuring it out, but we have two guys we feel can carry the load,” he said.
Line’em up: Top offensive tackle Grayson Stover says it doesn’t matter who is in the backfield. “We’re still going out there and dominating regardless of who is back there,” he said. “We’re doing what we have to do.” At 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, Stover is already rated as one of Florida’s top 2016 recruits. He and Kameron DeWitt (6-6, 300) will alternate between the tackle positions, and Chris Campos, Drake Carson and Corey Molina are all interior linemen with experience. Matt Shoun will also be a contributor.
Mix and match: Kantor is well aware opponents will be keying on stopping the rushing attack, so he is hoping for a 50-50 split offensively to keep them honest. Last year, it was 73-27 in favor of the rush.
Shut’em down: The offense should still be solid enough to put the Cobras in playoff contention, but the defense will have to be better. The unit loses five starters and faded last year, surrendering 143 points the last three weeks. New defensive coordinator and Hudson grad Kyle King is in charge of getting that fixed, with a lot of help from guys like DB Christien Thomas, DB Shawn Tucker, MLB Kobe Dicecco and DL Lee Clark.
History making? The Cobras are one of the favorites in 5A-7, and if they can finish first or second, they would become the first Hudson football team to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
OTs Grayson Stover, Jr., and Kameron DeWitt, Sr.: Stover is likely to end up as one of Pasco County’s top recruits in recent years, and his nastiness and love for the power-blocking game will make him an ideal choice to run behind in tough situations this year. And DeWitt is a returning starter, giving the Cobras two of the biggest tackles in the district at 6-6 and 6-5, respectively, and 300 pounds apiece.
QB/LB Joey Caruso, Sr.: The returning quarterback rushed and threw for 16 total touchdowns last year, but his real value this season may come on defense, where he’ll return to his linebacking roots. Caruso will be a full-time defender as a hybrid linebacker/safety rover, and he’s excited about it. He’s as big as he’s ever been at 6-2, 205, and had two sacks, a forced fumble and double-digit tackles in the spring game. “Quarterback was what they needed me to play when I got here …but there’s no better feeling than making a big hit.” Caruso will still be running the offense, but sophomore Justin Griffin (6-3, 210) will step in under center at times to spell him.
TE Ben Cosh, Sr.: The team’s second-leading receiver last year with 17 catches for 159 yards, Cosh (6-2, 215) could be a valuable weapon on a team looking for some punch, and he will be a key blocker in the Cobras rushing attack.
FS/WR Christien Thomas, Sr.: The Cobras graduated their two leading tacklers and three other defensive starters, but Thomas had 77 tackles and an interception and could be a weapon on offense as well.
DL Lee Clark, Sr.: Clark played only three games last season, but could be one of the anchors on a defensive line that will be completely rebuilt.
WR/DB Shawn Tucker, Sr.: Kantor thinks Tucker will have a breakout season, after picking off two passes, recovering three fumbles and blocking two field goals last season.
RB Billy Werner, Jr.: Werner had just two carries last year, but he’s a shifty and patient runner with decent speed and could carry the load in the backfield.
FS/RB Nate Munson, Jr.: Munson can play H-back, tailback or slot, so he will be a multi-purpose threat on offense after moving over from defense, where he was a linebacker.
DB Dario Ortega, Jr.: Ortega has been impressive in camp, and is stepping into an expanded role in the defensive backfield.
WRs Harley Ambrowsky, So., and Dakota Bonham, Jr.: Ambrowsky and Bonham are a pair of 6-foot-2 junior varsity standouts that should contribute right away.
“We’re very fortunate to have four out of five (offensive linemen) back. They have a confidence, an aura about themselves that they are going to going to open up things. They believe in each other. It’s a great thing to have going into a new season.” — Kantor