Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Sports

Class 6A, District 8: 2014 football preview

We're rolling out daily district previews for all 78 varsity football teams in the area. Today we look at a monster nine-team Hillsborough County league, affectionately tabbed the district of death.

Overview

This district is one of the toughest around, and the way the schedule shakes out, it's also a district that can be decided — like it was last year — by midseason. There's no room for a slow start. Robinson plays Armwood and Jefferson in the first four weeks, Armwood and Jefferson play in Week 5 following games against Hillsborough and Robinson, and the Terriers play Jefferson and Armwood in Weeks 2 and 3. Last year, Hillsborough lost both of those games and had to spend the final eight weeks hoping for an unlikely upset to prolong its season, and it never came. There's no question everyone is chasing the Hawks again, who were a perfect 8-0 in the league and allowed only 3.7 points a game. The race for second, though, should be more competitive. One coach referred to the league as Mario Kart, and Armwood has more red shells than everyone else.

The favorite

Armwood returns just about everyone from last year's team and has high-quality experience at almost every position — even at kicker, where Syracuse commitment Sterling Hofrichter makes the Hawks a threat to score when they get stopped. But that won't be often. The Hawks' average score in the district last year was 39-4, and the closest anyone came to beating them was Jefferson, which lost by 19. Those scores may be closer in 2014, but they won't be nearly close enough.

Next in line

You can flip a coin between Hillsborough and Jefferson for the runnerup spot. Last year Jefferson was the more experienced team, but this year Hillsborough returns starting quarterback Dwayne Lawson and six receivers, including Anthony King and Xavier Byrd, who had more than 200 yards receiving. It could be Lawson's presence — he also ran for more than 1,000 yards — that gives the Terriers the nod over Jefferson. But the Dragons, despite breaking in a new starter at quarterback in Cade Weldon, counter with a fantastic group of defensive backs and a potential 1,000-yard rusher in Mondreas Lofton. But don't fret the runnerup spot too much — we'll find out Sept. 5 who the frontrunner for that spot is.

Sleepers

After the Armwood-Jefferson-Hillsborough dog fight last year, the next three teams — Robinson, Chamberlain and King — all finished 4-4. It will take some good fortune for one of those teams to break from the second tier. Robinson doesn't have much depth, and returns just one starter on the offensive line, but it does have talent at virtually every position. The Knights will have to survive their first four games — Sickles, Plant, Jefferson on the road and Armwood at home — injury-free to have shot at upsetting the league's top dogs. And Blake and King may not be ready to start talking postseason yet, but don't be surprised if either plays a role in who goes with a possible upset of the favorites this season. Blake is as talented as it has been in years and has weapons all over the field, and Chamberlain is improved.

Important numbers

1 Returning 1,000-yard rusher (Hillsborough's Dwayne Lawson) and 2,000-yard passer (Lawson) from last season

3 Quarterbacks in the district who led their team in rushing and passing last season (Lawson, Armwood's Noah Johnson, Jefferson's Deiondre Porter)

30 Points allowed by Armwood in eight district games last year

313 Points scored by Armwood in eight district games last year

31 Combined sacks by Blake's Shavar Manuel (19) and Julian Jackson (12) last year

Players to watch

LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Jr., Hillsborough: Referred to as the quarterback of the defense by coach Earl Garcia, Al-Shaair recorded a team-leading 8.5 sacks and 110 tackles as a sophomore, 26 more than the next best Terrier. He'll lead the way for a linebacker corp that should be even better than it was last year.

RB Corey Bennett, Sr., Blake: Bennett was the everything guy last season, compiling 1,113 total yards while leading the team in rushing. It's his third year on the team and, according to coach Darryl Gordon, he's able to hit the holes well and should make some noise.

WR Jahrvis Davenport, Sr., Robinson: The Maryland commitment and No. 20-ranked player in the HomeTeam 100 might be the best wide receiver in Tampa Bay. A virtual unknown when last season began, Davenport filled his highlight video with sensational plays on the way to 667 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.

LB Jordan Griffin, Sr., Armwood: Griffin led the Hawks with 150 tackles last season and is one of the best linebackers in Tampa Bay. Expect similar numbers this fall, and maybe even a few additional splash plays.

CB/WR Corey Hicks, Sr., Lennard: A shutdown corner, Hicks will line up against opponents' best players. "There was a stretch last year against Hillsborough, Robinson, Jefferson and Armwood where we put him on their No. 1 receiver and they caught zero balls," coach Keith Chattin said.

RB Mondreas Lofton, Jr., Jefferson: The only offensive returning starter not on the line, Lofton will be tapped to carry the load on the ground in Deiondre Porter's absence. Last season, he rushed for 791 yards and eight touchdowns. Now that he's not sharing the work with Porter, we expect he can do a whole lot more for the Dragons.

OG/NG Robert Mosley, Sr., Chamberlain: The sturdy interior lineman will see plenty of action, if not be on the field for every play. He has a mean streak in him, and coach Cam Jones thinks Mosley will be a "steal" for whatever college picks him.

OG/DT Jamauri Tramel, Sr., Leto: A three-year starter on the offensive line, coach Matt Kitchie has dubbed Tramel "Mr. Dependable." He was injured in Week 5 against Robinson last year, which "threw a monkey wrench into our plans," Kitchie said.

RB Otis Williams, Jr., King: The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder finished with 742 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns last season. If Williams, who averaged 11.52 yards per carry, can repeat his performance, the Lions might sneak into the playoff conversation once again.

Mark our calendar

Jefferson at Hillsborough, Sept. 5: Well, it doesn't take long to get to the big one in this district, now does it? Jefferson opens up with Alonso, while Hillsborough has the old first-week bye to get ready for the Dragons. Extra week to prepare, or a game to tune up? Hmmmm. This won't officially settle anything in the district, but if it plays out that everyone is playing for second behind Armwood, this winner gets a one-game lead and a huge tiebreaker advantage if it comes down to that. Jefferson won last year's tilt 28-23, but this hotly contested series can always go either way.

Returning district leaders

Rushing yards: Hillsborough's Dwayne Lawson, 1,068

Rushing TDs: Armwood's Noah Johnson, 14

Passing yards: Lawson, 2,120

Passing TDs: Lawson, 22

Receiving yards: Robinson's Jahrvis Davenport, 667

Receiving TDs: Davenport, 8

Tackles: Armwood's Jordan Griffin, 150

Sacks: Blake's Shavar Manuel, 19

Interceptions: Blake's Juwan Burgess, 5

Predicted order of finish

From an anonymous coach in the district :

1. Armwood

2. Hillsborough

3. Jefferson

4. Robinson

5. King

6. Blake

7. Chamberlain

8. Lennard

9. Leto

Final word

"I love it more than anything. I want to be the main event. I want Chamberlain to be the team that people want to see on their Friday nights." — Chamberlain coach Cam Jones on playing in this powerhouse district

More football online

Want to know more about these teams? Catch up on previous installments? We've got individual previews chock full of more players to watch, schedules and more. Check out tampabay.com/hometeam.

Correspondents Jeff Odom, Darek Sharp, Andy Warrener and Brandon Wright contributed to this report.

HomeTeam 2014 football Class 6A, District 8

Comments
With Souza the latest to be gone, what do Rays have left? Well …

With Souza the latest to be gone, what do Rays have left? Well …

The first question to ask, understandably, is who do the Rays have left?And, after they Tuesday added 2017 team MVP Steven Souza Jr. to the list of departees that had just included Corey Dickerson and Jake Odorizzi, the next to ask is what do they ha...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs release Doug Martin and Chris Baker, two of their most disappointing players in 2017

Bucs release Doug Martin and Chris Baker, two of their most disappointing players in 2017

TAMPA – Early in his rookie year, Doug Martin was told he was losing his balance because he was dropping his head as he hit the hole in a game at Oakland.He quickly corrected that mistake and wound up rushing for a career-high 251 yards against...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Stakes high as USF women host Houston

Stakes high as USF women host Houston

If your alma mater or college of choice has bona fide NCAA Tournament aspirations, the final days of February possess pennant race-style tension.So it is with the 18th-ranked USF women, whose 7 p.m. home game tonight against Houston has big bracketol...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Steven Souza trade: Instant reaction to the Rays latest deal

Steven Souza trade: Instant reaction to the Rays latest deal

The Rays traded right fielder Steven Souza, Jr., their 2017 team MVP, to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night in a three-team deal for Arizona's No. 2 prospect, lefty Anthony Banda, Yankees infield prospect Nick Solak and two players to be named...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays trade team MVP Steven Souza Jr. in three-team deal that nets prospects

Rays trade team MVP Steven Souza Jr. in three-team deal that nets prospects

PORT CHARLOTTE — Evan Longoria traded in December. Jake Odorizzi and Corey Dickerson dumped over the weekend. Then, in a stunning move Tuesday night, 2017 team MVP Steven Souza Jr. shipped to Arizona as part of a three-team deal that netted onl...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Girls basketball: Resilient Carrollwood Day back in state semis

Girls basketball: Resilient Carrollwood Day back in state semis

SEFFNER — Tarriyonna Gary's sprained ankle was not in one of those bulky, protective, doctor-proscribed plastic boots Tuesday night.Not even close.Gary, in fact, was not only running up and down the floor, but she was leaping and diving and, pe...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Girls basketball: Lakewood edges closer to state return

ST. PETERSBURG — Paris Williams scored 17 points to lead Lakewood 64-38 past Bradenton Southeast in their Class 6A, Region 3 semifinal Tuesday.Lakewood (25-4) will host Robinson in the region final Friday. Last year the Spartans beat the K...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Girls basketball: Rebounding edge keeps Clearwater on top

Girls basketball: Rebounding edge keeps Clearwater on top

CLEARWATER — The result was expected but definitely didn't come easily.In Tuesday's Class 7A region semifinal, underdog Northeast threw some strong low-post defense against a lethargic Clearwater squad early, then rode effective offensive energ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Nikita Kucherov’s trick shot sends Lightning past Capitals

Nikita Kucherov’s trick shot sends Lightning past Capitals

WASHINGTON — There was some lighthearted debate in the Lightning dressing room Tuesday night about whether the latest dazzling breakaway move by Nikita Kucherov was a deliberate fake or a slip off the stick.Some teammates playfully gave the All...
Updated: 10 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Feb. 20

Tuesday’s scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 17, St. Petersburg Cath. 0BaseballGulf Coast HEAT 9, Canterbury 4Calvary Chr. 6, Lakeland Chr. 1
Updated: 10 hours ago