Coach: David Mitchell (10th season, 57-41)
Last season: 7-4
Colors: Navy and white
Stadium: Wildcat Stadium, 20150 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa
Playoff history: 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013
Last appearance: Lost 37-10 to Orlando Dr. Phillips.
Aug. 29 at Spoto, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. Plant City, 7:30
Sept. 12 vs. Freedom, 7:30
Sept. 19 at Riverview, 7:30
Sept. 26 at East Bay, 7:30
Oct. 2 vs. Newsome, 7
Oct. 10 vs. Steinbrenner, 7:30
Oct. 17 at Alonso, 7:30
Oct. 24 at Plant, 7:30
Oct. 31 vs. Bloomingdale, 7:30
Mark your calendar
Bloomingdale at Wharton, Oct. 31: Last year, this game decided the runnerup in the district and for most of the game it looked like it would be the Bulls. But Wharton sent Bloomingdale off into the offseason with 22 unanswered points as the Wildcats won 30-23. The Wildcats are in rebuilding mode and will be fortunate if this game is that important again this season. We think it could be. Either way, it will have an impact on the playoff situation in 8A-6.
Recalibrating: Wharton has to replace most of its offensive weapons, as well as fill some big holes on defense, but they won’t have to go too young this year. In fact, it seems like most of the Wildcat roster is comprised of seniors and juniors. The loss of four starters earlier this month due to off-the-field issues, however, stings.
QB battle: With all-time leading passer Chase Litton graduated, the Wildcats are still deciding between last year’s backup, Bryce Martin, and Panama City transfer Adam McAfee. Martin is more of a pocket passer and has some mobility, but McAfee is more of a dual threat. Coach David Mitchell said he will decide who the starter is Friday.
United States of Wharton: The Wildcats’ best player, wide receiver and FSU commitment Auden Tate, was a South Carolina transfer, and McAfee will contribute, but the Wildcats also have two new out-of-state move-ins that will start this season: running back Torrez Nesbit (Michigan) and wide receiver Devontres Dukes (North Carolina).
Lining up: The offensive line at Wharton will be a strength, said offensive coordinator Craig Rainey. It is an experienced group with three starters returning: DeAndre Brown, Andrew Williams and Joe Wintrick. And Daniel Martel, a 6-4, 275-pound junior, has been looking good in camp. With big fullbacks and wide receivers, look for Wharton to try and pound the rock this season.
Old student, new athlete: Senior V’Onte Williams-McRoy (6-0, 190) will play his first high school football season, and looks ready to make up for lost time. A standout this summer on the 7-on-7 all-star circuit, Williams-McRoy is a lockdown corner with excellent instincts and a nose for the ball who, if he can pick up the playbook and coverages, has a chance to be one of the best defensive backs in Tampa Bay.
WR Auden Tate, Sr.: The No. 12 player in the HomeTeam 100, Tate is coming off a huge season (49 catches, 815 yards, five touchdowns) but will have to break in a new quarterback. He will, however, be the top target for whomever starts, and at 6-4, 195 with excellent hands, should find the end zone more this season.
OL DeAndre Brown, Sr.: A returning starter, the hulking left tackle is 6-5, 280 pounds and should be one of the best blockers around. He’ll be more important this season as he protects the blindside of a new quarterback and leads the way in a running game that may rely on the power game.
OL Joe Wintrick, Sr.: Another experienced blocker for the Wildcats, and at 6-2, 250 will line up at left guard next to Brown, creating a formidable wall.
LB Javonte Hayes, Sr.: A load at 5-11, 195, Hayes was the team’s leading tackler last year with 93, including 10 for loss, and is the heart of the Wildcat defense.
DL/LB Richard Drummond, Sr.: The top returning pass rusher for Wharton, Drummond (6-1, 235) had 47 tackles and led the team with 3.5 sacks last season; he also was credited with 12 quarterback hurries.
DB Theo Hyppolite, Sr.: The 6-1, 185-pound defender is having a nice fall camp, according to coaches, and will be a key player in one of the area’s most complete defensive backfields.
DB Ozziah Williams, Sr.: when it comes to all-purpose yards, Williams is the second-leading returner for Wharton behind Tate, thanks to 155 yards worth of interception returns. Williams led the team with three interceptions and 11 passes defended.
QB Bryce Martin, Jr.: Martin was the backup last season, getting in two games and throwing eight passes. He is fighting for the starting job, but has the advantage of being in the system.
QB Adam McAfee, Sr.: McAfee played eight games for Panama City Arnold last season in a quick-passing spread offense, completing 57 of 99 passes for 635 yards and three touchdowns. He closed out the season with a 20-of-34 outing, for 218 yards and two scores, and has carried that over into a solid offseason that has him in the mix for a starting gig.
RB Torrez Nesbit, Jr.: Michigan transfer Nesbit has some speed and also hits the holes with some power behind his 5-9, 210-pound frame.
WR Devontres Dukes, Jr.: A North Carolina transfer, Dukes gives Wharton another tall (6-3, 180) weapon opposite Tate.
OL Daniel Martel, Jr.: New starter on the line at right tackle, Martel will fit right in at 6-4, 275.
DL Godey Coleus, Jr.: Coaches love the motor on Coleus, a 6-2, 215-pound nose who is athletic enough to play linebacker and end as well.
FB Alex Woolley, Jr.: Wharton will use Woolley (5-11, 190) as a utility player, lining him up in the backfield, slot and at tight end.
“Can we find our identity? That’s the question. We’ve already had to overcome a lot of adversity. We just need to get better, to get better every day.” — Mitchell