The theme of this year's football tab is two-way players, and I can definitely sympathize with coaches who don't have enough bodies to go around. As the Times prep columnist, I too am asked to wear many different hats, from Editor's Car Washer to Editor's Dog Walker When She's Out Of Town to columnist. It's no easy feat. But no more difficult task has ever faced me than this, the two-way column. Oh, it may be tough playing a full game and never leaving the field, running the ball 30 times and getting 15 tackles at linebacker. However, it pales in comparison to asking questions, and answering them, for the newspaper.
Never leave the field? Well, try never leaving the office — brrrr, what is it, 70 degrees in here? And a water cooler, but no soda machine? And could the 50-inch plasma we watch sports on be any further away from my desk? — while you write a column. And I'm writing hurt, having missed out on the daily coffee run to Starbucks for a triple latte heavy cream cappuccino venti frappuccino light foam extra caramel.
Here we go:
RUNNING BACK JOHN: Well, you can't kick off a football season without asking the big question first: Who's No. 1?
LINEBACKER JOHN: Easy. Largo. Dunedin is closing fast, and Gibbs lurks in third. I'd cap my top seven off in this order: Countryside, Bogie, Tarpon Springs and CCC.
RB JOHN: Who wins the rushing and passing titles?
LB JOHN: I could make the easy pick here, but that's not the way I tumble. I'm going with an upset here, as Largo's Marcel Durham, inset, edges Dunedin's Darius Bellamy by 37 yards.
RB JOHN: So precise. Impressive. How many teams go to the playoffs this year?
LB JOHN: Countryside, Dunedin, Gibbs, Largo, Tarpon Springs, Clearwater Central Catholic, Indian Rocks Christian and Keswick.
RB JOHN: No Bogie? No St. Petersburg Catholic?
LB JOHN: I'd bet your life on it.
RB JOHN: But that would mean … well … we're the same person.
LB JOHN: Oh, yeah … fine, throw them in there then if it makes you feel better. I'm standing firm, though.
RB JOHN: Either way you'll be right. That's kind of a disingenuous way to making predictions, isn't it?
LB JOHN: Yes.
RB JOHN: What interests you this year? Any story lines lurking?
LB JOHN: Well, I'm already looking forward to the big Dunedin or Largo trip to Fort Lauderdale to meet nationally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas in the playoffs. I think the Bogie-Lakewood-Gibbs circuit this year is going to provide some great games. I wouldn't be surprised if the CCC-Berkeley Prep game is a classic. Gibbs is still a year away from a big playoff run. I think Bogie is really going to miss Orhian Johnson. By my count, 17 of the current starting quarterbacks in the county were on Countryside's spring roster.
RB JOHN: Wow! That is a lot. Though I think you're exaggerating. But moving on, tell me something, anything about some of the teams not named Largo, Dunedin and Countryside.
LB JOHN: Clearwater should win 7-8 games a year easy, and it doesn't, and it's a shame. But if the Tornadoes don't start 2-0, heads should roll. St. Pete finishes .500 this year, but can't beat Gibbs or Largo, so no playoffs. Pinellas Park still struggles, but upsets Clearwater. Dixie is Dixie, going 4-6, but I see five possible wins on its schedule. Palm Harbor University will be competitive, but the sting from losing two key players will linger. I see dead people, and long seasons for Seminole and Osceola, too (but they have each other on Oct. 3).
RB JOHN: I hate to stop you when you're on a roll. Wait, that's not a question: I hate to stop you when you are on a roll?
LB JOHN: Shorecrest's game against Indian Rocks on Oct. 10 has Friday Night Rewind written all over it. Canterbury, out of district, out of mind, I think Calvary Christian makes the playoffs, but don't have the guts to go all the way out on the limb. Northeast will have one 300-yard passing game, and the skies will open and locusts will descend upon the Viking ship. …oh wait, are those termites? And Northside Christian's schedule means the Mustangs will be fortunate not to give up 200 points by midseason.
RB JOHN: You are good! I think you mentioned every team in the county in here!
LB JOHN: I'm a better linebacker than I am a running back.
RB JOHN: Hey!
Preps columnist John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected], or follow his football meanderings at Twitter.com/FriNightRewind.