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Around the county in 30 days
A daily spring preview of every football program in Hillsborough County:
Coach: Mike Gottman (eighth season, 43-32)
Last season: 6-4
District: Class 5A, District 6
Key losses: LB Ruben Garcia, LB Sean Kolanowski, RB Antonio Morris, RB John Hicks, WR David Claypool, LB Rance Rutherford, WR Mason Brooks, DB T.J. Davis, DE Jacob Johnson
Who’s back: QB Je’Twan Smith, RB Jarvis Scott, DB Michael Stephens, DE Josh Halferty, DL Daivonte Lumpkin, DL Clay Varnum, OL Mason Lewis, OL Rob Fabrizio, TE C.J. Griffin
What’s new: The Cougars will start rebuilding this spring after losing eight offensive and six defensive starters. Durant loses its leading rusher (Morris, 723 yards, five TDs) and its leading receiver (Claypool, 509, four TDs), but returns Smith, a talented playmaker who threw for 832 yards and ran for 561, and three offensive linemen. Griffin, who spent most of his time on the defensive line last season, will move to tight end. But the Cougars also lose all three starting linebackers, a unit that was one of the team’s strengths, allowing just 7.3 points a game with two shutouts in their first seven games. Stung by the injury bug, Durant lost its final three games last season, going from a district title contender to missing the playoffs.
Audible: “It’s going to be a rebuilding year for us. We’ve got to get our young kids ready to play and try to get them some experience. We’ve got some good JV players coming up and I’m excited about our defensive front, but we’re going to need some help in the secondary.” — Gottman
Did you know? By the fall, Durant’s new football fieldhouse, a six-year project, will be complete. Just past the south end zone of the stadium, the field house holds a weight room that can work out 75 players at one time. In the past, the Cougars used two smaller weight rooms. “I’ve always thought that lifting together and working together is very important, so we’re excited about that,” Gottman said.
Spring game: vs. Newsome at Durant, 6:30 p.m. (second half)
Aug 27 at Gaither (preseason)
Sept. 3 at Chamberlain
Sept. 10 at Brandon
Sept. 16 vs. Jesuit
Sept. 24 at Bloomingdale
Oct. 1 at East Bay
Oct. 8 vs. Riverview
Oct. 15 vs. Sickles
Oct. 29 at Plant City
Nov. 5 vs. Newsome
Nov. 12 vs. Strawberry Crest