There are defenders who fly to the ball. Runners who move the pile. Linemen who block out the sun. Big-time players come through when it matters most. And now is the time, with the first round of the playoffs starting tonight. Here are some county standouts who could be key factors for their team.
Jamarious Boatwright, Largo
The Packers lost one of their top playmakers when senior linebacker Sean Holte tore his ACL and MCL in the season's third week.
Softening the blow, however, has been the play of cornerback Jamarious Boatwright, who has been crucial to Largo's fifth straight playoff appearance.
Boatwright leads the county with eight interceptions and tied the Packers' record held by current Largo secondary coach Marcus Paschal. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior had a 90-yard pick for a touchdown that sealed a win over Boca Ciega in what had been a close game. His 76-yard scoop and score was a backbreaker for district foe Leto a week earlier.
Said Packers coach Rick Rodriguez: "When we lost Holte, (Boatwright) stepped up. He's made some big plays for us."
Ben Sams and Malik Wilson, St. Petersburg
Sams and Wilson are a pair of runners who whack you in tandem. One blocks, the other carries, then the roles are reversed.
It's an approach as elemental as high-top shoes, and fans who remember smash-mouth football get a comfortable feeling watching a four-footed machine eat up yardage in 4- and 5-yard chunks.
The two have combined for more than 1,200 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns.
"We don't mind sharing the workload," Wilson said. "It makes it tough for other defenses to key on just one guy."
"I actually like blocking more than the running the ball," Sams said.
The two have helped power an offense that has scored more than 40 points in each of its past four games. Throw in speedy running back Rashad Lewis and the Green Devils have more than enough guys to play ball control, which will be needed to keep an explosive Venice offense off the field.
"We feel like we're playing our best football right now," Sams said. "But we still need to play our perfect game."
Tyler Moore, Countryside
Freedom's defenders want to sit on top of Cougars quarterback Jimbo Chmelik and stop running back Alton Taylor in his tracks.
Moore does not want this to happen. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior will pay special attention to the Patriots' speed rushers off the edge.
Moore, a Nebraska recruit, mostly drive blocks, creating a cushion for Taylor to run. But he also has quick feet and is one of the best in pass protection.