Coach: Trey Thomas (first season)
Last season: 6-4
Colors: Columbia blue and scarlet
Stadium: Bill Stewart Stadium, 6815 N. 56th St., Tampa
Playoff history: 1972, 1976, 1978, 1981, 2000, 2001
Last appearance: Beat East Bay 17-14; lost 24-23 (OT) to Kissimmee Osceola.
Aug. 29 vs. Freedom, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. Lennard, 7:30
Sept. 12 at Middleton, 7:30
Sept. 19 at Chamberlain, 7:30
Sept. 26 vs. Blake, 7:30
Oct. 2 at Hillsborough, 7
Oct. 10 vs. Robinson, 7:30
Oct. 17 at Jefferson, 7:30
Oct. 24 vs. Armwood, 7:30
Oct. 31 at King, 7:30
Mark your calendar
King at Hillsborough, Oct. 2: In the words of new coach Trey Thomas, King’s one-point loss to district rival Hillsborough last season was simply “a heartbreaker.” With less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter, the Lions were poised to take the lead with the ball at Hillsborough’s 10-yard line. But instead of attempting a short field goal, King opted to try and run time off the clock with one more play. It was a decision that proved disastrous. King botched the ensuing snap, the Terriers recovered, ran out the clock and ended the Lions’ hopes to earn their first postseason bid in 12 years. Thomas, who was King’s offensive coordinator for six seasons before being promoted in February, believes last year’s score alone (28-27) is enough motivation for his players to want to beat Hillsborough this time around.
Offseason confusion: After longtime coach Alvin Davis retired in January, King thought it had landed its next coach in McKinley Rolle. But shortly after Rolle accepted the position, administrators were informed that he was under investigation by the Florida Department of Education for an incident at Lecanto, where he was the head coach for three seasons. After weeks of waiting for the DOE’s official ruling, King decided to instead offer the position to Thomas, who was the second finalist.
Sticking together: During the month-long stretch that King did not have a coach, Thomas said senior cornerback Demetrius Mann took charge and led the team’s offseason workouts. Thomas, who also coaches track, said he would see Mann running drills at the team’s practice field, which made him proud. “He’s just a great guy and a great kid and an awesome player. That kid is going to go far,” Thomas said.
Stressing the basics: Thomas said he is in the process of instilling more discipline in the program and, for him, it starts with personal responsibility. He wants to get players into the habit of being on time to classes and practice. “Our kids, they need that. They need the man in their life,” he said. “For unfortunate reasons, a lot of them don’t have that. So they need that structure in their life and they’re begging for that structure. They’re responding well to us and that’s the thing that I like about it.”
Tough slate? No problem: There’s little doubt that 6A-8 is one of the toughest districts in the area with Armwood, Jefferson and Hillsborough leading the charge. Thomas knows it will be a challenge to repeat the success of last season, but said his team will be prepared for everything.
RB Otis Williams, Jr.: The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder finished with 742 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns last season. If Williams, who averaged 11.52 yards per carry, can repeat his performance, the Lions might sneak into the playoff conversation once again.
CB Demetrius Mann, Sr.: Mann had 24 tackles and one fumble recovery last year and will be counted on as a leader in the secondary. Thomas touted the senior as someone “every coach would want in a player” on and off the field.
LB Andrew Fakolade, Sr.: Fakolade returns as the most experienced linebacker. In six games last season, he totaled 31 tackles with one interception.
QB Paul Arfaras, Sr.: Though Arfaras hasn’t played at the varsity level since appearing in five games as a sophomore (4-for-14, 51 yards, one TD, one interception), he is King’s only option with experience under center.
DB/RB DeMario Brisbon, Jr.: Thomas said Brisbon has grown from an inexperienced player into someone others on the team look up to.
DE Samuel Guinyard, Fr.: Guinyard is the lone freshman on the roster. But at 6-foot-6, he is already the tallest player and should see playing time this season.
“My expectation is to lay the foundation to build a program. I’m not more concerned with wins or losses. Right now, I’m more concerned with building and raising men. I think the rest of that will come along with it.” — Thomas