Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plant City football hopes to be 'straight dominate'

One summer hasn't turned the Plant City High football team into a wily cast of veterans.

The Raiders will still be fielding one of the least experienced football teams among the area's bigger schools.

But man, does their head coach feel a lot better these days.

Offseason momentum, not all of it based on football-related activity, has carried over into the first days of practice.

"It's reassuring," said Plant City coach Wayne Ward on Monday. "Seeing these guys progress every day, very reassuring. They really, really practice hard."

He had, frankly, some need for reassurance considering the team will replace more than half of last year's starters.

There are several seniors for Ward to turn to, and while the school traditionally produces high-level skilled players, Plant City's most notable athlete at the moment anchors the defensive line.

Meet Devyn Salmon, a senior who checks in at an imposing 6-foot-1, 285 pounds. After a spring and summer where he turned heads at various camps, particularly showcases in Orlando and Gainesville, Salmon recently gave his verbal commitment to Michigan State University.

And MSU didn't even need to have him see the campus.

"I haven't visited the school yet," Salmon said. "Denzel Drone (former Raider, now at MSU) told me all about it. He said they're 'straight dawgs' on that line there."

"Straight" is one of Salmon's favorite adjectives. Asked to describe his performance at offseason camps, it happens to coincide with his plan of attack for when the season begins: "straight dominate."

For Ward's purposes he'll take more of a straight line.

"Devyn has to focus, regardless of the (scholarship) offers," Ward said. "And he's starting to do that. If he finishes strong here, he'll have a great season for us."

Salmon says knowing he has a future college home squared away won't affect his focus on the field.

One of the key decisions for Ward to make involves Salmon's speedier Raider teammates. Right now one senior and two freshmen are jockeying to become the starting tailback, the position held down by standout Daz Patterson the past three years.

Ward says freshman Irving Michael reminds him of Patterson, and another ninth-grader, Sterling Day, has a more curious resemblance.

"He reminds me of myself," said Ward, who set Plant City rushing records before his senior season (1995-96) came to a close. "He has a thirst for knowledge. It's hard to keep him off the field."

Jontavia Sykes, more of a bruiser, is the senior vying to carry the ball.

The quarterback position is also undecided but Ward loves the leadership qualities shown by seniors Nick Rodriguez and junior Landon Galloway.

Both players showed what they were made of when the Raiders travelled to Vero Beach for a two-day "boot camp" this month.

That experience, where the Raiders did a lot more than just work on football plays, has boosted Ward's enthusiasm through the roof.

"It was so challenging physically, spiritually and emotionally. They had a 2 a.m. wakeup call to practice, and turn around and had one at 6 a.m. It was really taxing. They held strong when it could have fallen apart."

Ward added that linemen Montel McBride and Dustyn Hart stood out as leaders during the various drills, both on field and off.

Plant City is preparing for its Aug. 24 preseason game against Hillsborough.

Darek Sharp can be reached at

Plant City football hopes to be 'straight dominate' 08/16/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 16, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.
  2. The Rays expect Evan Longoria to be back in the lineup for tonight's game.
  3. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh


    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  4. LSU's Paul Mainieri defends FSU's Mike Martin; Gators play Friday


    OMAHA, Neb. — LSU coach Paul Mainieri says whether Florida State's Mike Martin ever wins a national championship should have no bearing on how his long career in college baseball is judged.

    MADE IT: Josh Watson beats the tag of Louisville catcher Colby Fitch during TCU’s 4-3 win in the College World Series.
  5. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.