As the 2009 prep football season approaches, the Times will take a day-by-day look at each district involving a local team. Today we look at Class 5A, District 6.
Bloomingdale, Durant, Newsome, Plant City, Riverview
Brandon and East Bay are out, Durant and Riverview have moved down from Class 6A.
Three story lines
1. Wolves tested: Will defending champ Newsome be able to survive a brutal season-opening stretch — against Armwood, Jefferson and Alonso — with its confidence intact?
2. Bull market? Can Bloomingdale build on the momentum of last fall's breakthrough season, when it clinched its first winning campaign and inaugural playoff berth? Or is the lack of coaching continuity — newcomer John Booth is the program's third coach in as many years — too much to overcome?
3. Sophomore seasons: Which second-year coach — Plant City's Jason Strunk or Riverview's Bruce Gifford — will make more significant strides in 2009?
Durant at Newsome, Nov. 6. If Durant's young defense develops over time, this could be the district championship game. The Cougars have never defeated Newsome, but have fallen the past two years by narrow margins of 14-6 and 14-7.
District's five best players
1. Conner Powers, Jr., RB, Newsome: If Tampa Bay Tech's Maurice Hagens doesn't lead the county in rushing, Powers might. Entering his junior year, this 5-foot-10 wrecking ball already has more than 2,000 career rushing yards.
2. Jordan Prestwood, Jr., DL/TE, Plant City: Teeming with physical upside (6-foot-6, 250 pounds), Prestwood opened eyes with some big offensive plays in the spring jamboree.
3. Ronnie Johnson, Sr., RB, Riverview: This solid Shark will have a shot at a 1,000-yard season in Gifford's offense, a hybrid of the spread and wing-T.
4. Ruben Garcia, Sr., LB, Durant: A sturdy (6-1, 220 pounds) two-year starter with Division I potential, Garcia collected 72 tackles last season before injuring a knee ligament in the Cougars' eighth game.
5. Je'Twan Smith, Jr., QB, Durant: After amassing nearly 900 total yards as a sophomore, the Cougars' most dynamic offensive weapon could be poised for a breakout year.
Predicted order of finish
3. Plant City