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 8.
Clearwater, Countryside, Dunedin, East Lake, Palm Harbor University
Nothing. This was one of the few districts in the state that remained intact after the Florida High School Athletic Association realigned districts in the offseason.
Three story lines
1. Cougars ready to roar: Countryside has not won a district title since 2005 or a playoff game since 2003. Both streaks could be halted this season, thanks to a roster filled with talent. The Cougars return nearly everyone on offense and have revamped their defense.
2. Falcons headed for a fall? Dunedin has won three district titles. To make it four in a row, the Falcons will have to compensate for the loss of 28 seniors, including their bread-and-butter back Adaris Bellamy. There are just three returning starters (two on offense, one on defense).
3. Eagles flying under the radar: East Lake took some lumps last season, going 3-7. But the Eagles should bounce back. After all, they played well against tough competition, even handing St. Petersburg one of its two regular-season losses. And East Lake returns several starters.
Dunedin at Countryside, Sept. 25: This neighborhood rivalry has had its share of close, exciting games. There should be plenty at stake with the winner emerging as the front-runner for the district title.
District's five best players
1. Ali Cheaib, Dunedin: The Falcons' leader on defense seemingly always finds a way to create a turnover and score off it.
2. Jimbo Chmelik, Countryside: A three-year starter, Chmelik is the most experienced of any starting quarterback in the district.
3. Jeremiah George, Clearwater: He is rated the 68th-best outside linebacker in the nation by scout.com.
4. Tyler Moore, Countryside: The converted tight end is one of the most coveted offensive tackles with offers expected from major colleges.
5. Ryan Singer, Dunedin: The quarterback has offers from Presbyterian and Western Michigan and is expected to get more throughout the season.
Predicted order of finish
3. East Lake
4. Palm Harbor University