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Brandon area high school football matchups herald new season

SEFFNER

Forget the megarich whiners in the National Football League and the ever-increasing number of scandals in college football. Today marks a very important day of the year — the Friday Night Lights are finally back on.

Tonight's games might just be preseason warmups for next week's season openers, but it's safe to say these kids are just looking forward to hitting something in a different-colored jersey.

As always this time of year, there are a number of questions that will unfold throughout the season. Is Bennie Coney ready to be the quarterback everyone thinks he can be? How will Tampa Bay Tech transfer Darryl Richardson transition to the Armwood offense? Can Strawberry Crest actually get over the .500 mark in just its second year of varsity play?

There's only one way to find out … let's tee it up.

All games are slated for 7:30 unless otherwise indicated.

Armwood at Bishop Gorman

The skinny: Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman players are wasting no time finding out how good they are. After dispatching nationally ranked Arizona's Chaparral 42-22 last week to kick off the season, the Gaels welcome Armwood to town. Bishop Gorman returns 16 starters from a team that won its third consecutive state title last season, including tailback Shaq Powell, who rushed for 300 yards and six TDs last week in the opener. Armwood will be without running back Matt Jones for the game, who injured his right knee this summer.

Plant City at Hillsborough

The skinny: This is the premier local matchup of the night. Plant City is going to be an awful lot of fun to watch on offense this season, led by quarterback Bennie Coney, running back Dazmond Patterson and wideout Lamarlin Wiggins. Expect Earl Garcia's stingy defense to provide a good litmus test for the Raiders' O.

Leto at Lennard

The skinny: Leto suffered through one of the worst public school seasons ever in 2010. The Falcons, who scored 13 points all season, finished 1-9, with their lone win coming by forfeit, despite losing the game 68-0 to King on the field. The Longhorns must replace a number of key starters, including their leading rusher, receiver and quarterback.

Freedom at Strawberry Crest

The skinny: Strawberry Crest did a more-than-admirable job last year in its first year of varsity competition, going 5-5. The Chargers will lean heavily on quarterback Trey Vandegrift, while Freedom (4-6) is coming off a season in which it lost four games by 10 points or less.

Durant at Bloomingdale

The skinny: Bloomingdale went 2-8 in 2010, but the team returns 14 starters. The Bulls have to figure out a way to keep games within striking distance; Bloomingdale lost five games by 30 or more points. Durant returns good size on both sides of the ball and will compete with Newsome and Plant City for the district title.

Wharton at Riverview

The skinny: This is a preseason test for two teams looking to rebound from some recent stumbling blocks. Wharton lost in the state finals in 2002 and captured district titles in 2005 and 2008. But the Wildcats have just five victories the past two seasons, while the Sharks went winless last year, including five shutouts.

Alonso at Spoto

The skinny: Alonso went 4-7 last year but reached the playoffs for the third straight year. Elusive tailback Brandon Holloway could be on the verge of a breakout year. Spoto is full of speed on both sides of the ball, but the Spartans will miss playmakers Nick Addison, Tyron Baker and Danny Taylor.

Blake at Brandon

The skinny: Brandon had a great run in 2011, reaching the postseason for the first time since 2007 and finishing 9-2. But the Eagles graduated top rusher Darius Lee and do-it-all Shawn Council. After back-to-back 1-9 seasons, the Yellow Jackets finished 4-6 last year.

Steinbrenner at Newsome

The skinny: The Wolves are coming off a record-setting 2010, in which they reached the region semis for the first time, losing to Plant 50-23. Newsome has some gaping holes to fill, however, with the graduation of running back Conner Powers and linebacker Joe Worth. Steinbrenner went 5-5 last year but won four of its last six to close out 2010.

East Bay at Chamberlain

The skinny: Coach Joe Severino's rebuilding project at Chamberlain might hit some tough sledding this year with the move to Class 7A, District 7. Still, look for the Chiefs to move the ball behind emerging junior running back Xavier Johnson. East Bay, meanwhile, moves up from Class 4A to 7A with new coach Frank LaRosa after longtime coach Brian Thornton stepped down.

Seffner Christian at Winter Haven All Saints

The skinny: The Crusaders are entering their second year of football after winning a pair of games in 2010. Tanner Richardson, the team's leading passer and rusher, returns for his senior season.

Boca Ciega at Tampa Catholic

The skinny: After a quick playoff exit last season, Tampa Catholic returns experience on defense but will rely on youth at the quarterback position in sophomore signal-caller Chivarsky Corbett.

BELEN JESUIT AT JESUIT

The skinny: Jesuit looks to replicate its 11-1 season, the best in recent memory for the Tigers. However, that's a tall order, given that only half of its starters return. But they do have standouts coming back in linebacker Vincent Jackson and receiver Travis Johnson. Belen Jesuit out of Miami comes to Tampa with a team that made the playoffs in 2010.

Berkeley Prep at Sarasota Out-Of-Door Academy (7 p.m.)

The skinny: After an off-season of becoming one of the Bay area's most — if not THE most — coveted Division I prospect, Berkeley Prep's triple-threat athlete Nelson Agholor returns to the field for his senior campaign. Agholor and veteran starting quarterback Destin Nichols give the Buccaneers plenty of offensive punch.

Times correspondent Rod Gipson contributed to this report. Brandon Wright can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

Brandon area high school football matchups herald new season 08/25/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 25, 2011 5:30am]

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