Tuesday, January 23, 2018

2015 football preview: Class 2A, District 6

Another football season is upon us, and we'll be examining every local new district — the Florida High School Athletic Association shuffled things a bit — over the next few weeks.

Class 2A, District 6

Admiral Farragut, Indian Rocks Christian, Northside Christian

What's new

Admiral Farragut spent the past few years in Class 3A but drops down to 2A this season. Indian Rocks Christian and Northside Christian were the top teams in Class 2A-5 last year. Canterbury and Shorecrest would have been in this district as well, but both decided to play independent schedules.

Offensive standouts

L'Dre Barnes, RG, Admiral Farragut: Barnes will be one of the biggest linemen Admiral Farragut has had in a while. The senior is 6 feet 3, 290 pounds and will guard the right side for the Blue Jackets. AFA has plenty of skill players, and adding a big body like Barnes makes them even better. "He's going to be crucial for us," coach Ryan Hearn said.

Tyler Knight, OL, Northside Christian: The 6-foot-5, 255-pound junior already has been offered by Indiana with more offers likely to come. The Calvary Christian transfer adds bulk to an already bulky offensive line that includes Notre Dame commit Dillan Gibbons. Knight played tight end last season, but will focus solely on blocking this year.

Sam Veltman, TE, Indian Rocks Christian: The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder started as a sophomore and caught 10 passes for 121 yards. Expect those numbers to increase in his junior year. Coach Mark Buchanan said Veltman will be a main target in the passing game. And his blocking will be pivotal in springing backs Theo Anderson and Zeke McGaughy.

Defensive standouts

Darius Williams, S, Northside Christian: The 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior was a starter last season and also played some at receiver. He likely will focus mainly on the secondary this fall. Williams has speed and good hands, as well as solid tackling skills. He should make it hard for opponents to throw against the Mustangs.

Jeremiah Zio, DE, Admiral Farragut: Zio is a player to keep an eye on. A junior, he has not played football in high school, instead focusing on basketball. But at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, he is big enough to make an impact. Hearn said he is raw, but already has interest from some colleges.

Selby Steward, MLB, Indian Rocks Christian: The 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior had 63 total tackles last season. IRC's defense was led by several upperclassmen in 2014, so Steward wasn't relied on as much. This season Buchanan thinks he could be a leader. "He was kind of under the radar on last year's team," Buchanan said. "I'm expecting big things from him."

Special teams standout

Connor Ryan, FS, Indian Rocks Christian: Ryan missed some games last season due to injury, but the 6-foot, 185-pound senior is expected to make some plays this fall. He will be used as a gunner on special teams, where he is usually one of the first players to reach the kick returner. "He's going to be a very big part of our special teams," Buchanan said.

Coach's corner

"I think this is the hardest district in Class 2A, especially when you look at what the teams have done in the recent past. I can go 8-2 and not make the playoffs. But then again, I guess I can go 2-8 and make the playoffs. It's all about preparing for the eighth and 10th weeks of the season." — Northside Christian coach Mike Alstott

Sizing up the district

There is no room for error in this three-team district, one of three three-team districts in Class 2A. The first half of the season is all about getting ready for October. On Oct. 2, Indian Rocks Christian plays at Admiral Farragut. On Oct. 16, Northside Christian plays at IRC. And on Oct. 30, Admiral Farragut plays at Northside Christian. That's the season in a nutshell for these teams.

"Ideally, I'd like to have more teams," Buchanan said. "Obviously, every district game has extra meaning. But for us, it's been hard on scheduling. We have eight games now and we'd like to add two more."

Northside Christian has sprinkled in some competitive non-district games, including Calvary Christian (Sept. 4), Lakeland Victory Christian (Sept. 11) and Carrollwood Day (Oct. 9). Same is true for Farragut, which plays both Carrollwood Day (season opener) and Victory Christian (Sept. 18).

With only two district games on the schedule, all three teams in this district must be creative in finding non-district opponents. Northside Christian has three road games with more than three hours of travel time (Lafayette for the season opener, Winter Garden Foundation Academy and Miami Dade Christian).

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