Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

East Hillsborough high schools hit the gridiron

Armwood’s Sherman Jessie runs for a gain in the Class 4A regional football final between Plant High School and Armwood last season. Armwood must replace eight Division I starters, but should be in the title hunt.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2008)

Armwood’s Sherman Jessie runs for a gain in the Class 4A regional football final between Plant High School and Armwood last season. Armwood must replace eight Division I starters, but should be in the title hunt.

SEFFNER — Finally, football is here.

The sound of the drum lines, the smell of Frito Pies and the sight of players plowing into each other can only mean the opening of the 2009 football season. Tonight is the final audition for starting positions in the only preseason game before next Friday's openers get under way. We've been crisscrossing the eastern part of Hillsborough County gathering data. Here's what we expect to see this season.

5A-6

Teams: Bloomingdale, Durant, Newsome, Plant City and Riverview

Outlook: The Bulls pulled off the unthinkable last season, recording a winning season and reaching the postseason — both school firsts. Having cleared those hurdles, Bloomingdale has a new set of challenges. John Booth takes over as head coach for Jason Stokes, and the Bulls must find a way to replace 20 players who graduated in the spring.

"We lost a lot of leadership from last season," Booth said. "But these kids have seen what it takes."

Newsome went 8-2 last year but made a quick exit from the playoffs, losing in the first round. Junior tailback Connor Powers will again be the focal point after rushing for 1,164 yards and eight touchdowns. Look for Powers, a power back who runs low, to improve on those numbers this season.

Quarterback Je'Twan Smith, a threat on the ground and through the air, will lead the Cougars. John Hicks likely will step in at tailback, but Smith will be the guy teams focus on. Durant's defense could be in trouble as only three starters returned this year.

Plant City and Riverview will likely pull up the rear of this district. However, Sharks fullback Ronnie Johnson is worth watching. He takes over full time this season at running back and should benefit from Riverview's switch from a double wing to single wing attack. The Sharks also return four of five starting offensive linemen.

5A-7

Teams: Brandon, Freedom, Tampa Bay Tech and Wharton

Outlook: The Eagles hope to rebound from a dismal 2-8 season. Thanks to the rash of injuries Brandon endured last year, the Eagles started 13 or so freshman and sophomores by season's end. Senior wideout Sean Watson is Brandon's most offensive potent weapon and will handle the kicking and punting duties as well.

"These kids seem to have a chip on their shoulders," Brandon coach John Lima said. "And that's good."

4A-9

Teams: Armwood, East Bay, Hillsborough and King

Outlook: Armwood must replace eight Division I starters. But don't feel bad for the Hawks. They will once again be in the state championship hunt. Freedom transfer Josh Grady takes over as quarterback, but the breakout star will be Matt Jones. The sophomore tailback was used in spurts last year. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Jones is a beast who should become a star this season.

"He's going to be a good one," said Armwood coach Sean Callahan.

There is good news for East Bay. They dropped to 5A from 4A. The bad news is they are now in the same district as Armwood and Hillsborough. The Indians may be one of the few teams that still employ the wishbone offense. When it's working, it can be a clock-chewing problem for anybody. Deandre Reddick will likely replace Chaz Burrows, a 1,000-yard rusher last year, this season in the backfield. Aaron Mills will take over at quarterback.

3A-8

Teams: Blake, Dixie Hollins, Jefferson, Lakewood, Osceola and Spoto

Outlook: In just their second year of varsity football, Spoto reached the postseason. JB Burgess' season is in limbo after his recent arrest for armed robbery so Jamar Burns, a tailback/wideout last season, will move into the quarterback role. All-state linebacker Rodney Williams is one of the area's best defensive talents and will work more in the offensive backfield this season.

2A-5

Teams: George Steinbrenner, Jesuit, Lennard, Middleton, Robinson, St. Petersburg Catholic and Strawberry Crest

Outlook: Lennard's biggest loss is quarterback Andrew Burdick. The Longhorns replace him with a quality player in East Bay transfer Fred Porter. He'll have a bunch of tall targets to work with in the red zone, with five receivers measuring over 6-feet tall. De'Myco Winston is the best — and tallest — of the bunch at 6-foot-5. The Longhorns figure to be stout on defense with eight seniors returning.

"We'll be looking for the mismatches out wide," said Lennard coach George Edington. "That should be one of our strengths."

Brandon Wright can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

FAST FACTS

Tonight's schedule

Middleton at Armwood

Wharton at Bloomingdale

Riverview at Brandon

East Bay at Lennard

Newsome at Spoto

Tampa Bay Tech at Plant City

Gaither at Durant

East Hillsborough high schools hit the gridiron 08/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning journal: Ryan Callahan feels good after first game action since January

    Sports

    TAMPA — As veteran RW Ryan Callahan was riding a stationary bike before Friday's exhibition game, he felt nervous. There was anxiety.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24) pursues Nashville Predators center Colton Sissons (10) during the first period of Friday (9/22/17) preseason game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  2. FSU players rally around freshman QB James Blackman

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — For the first few minutes Saturday, Florida State's James Blackman looked like a true freshman making his first start at quarterback for a big-time program.

    Florida State Seminoles quarterback James Blackman (1) gets sacked during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  Final score, North Carolina State Wolfpack 27, Florida State Seminoles 21.
  3. No. 12 FSU, defense struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — It's easy to blame No. 12 Florida State's 27-21 loss to North Carolina State on the injury to starting quarterback Deondre Francois or the three-week layoff because of Hurricane Irma.

    It would also be wrong.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  4. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off

    Nba

    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]
  5. For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing another old friend in Jeremy Hellickson

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 3:29: Here is the Rays lineup, with Duda at 1B and Morrison the DH: