Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Spring high school football wrapup

Spring football always introduces us to new faces, gives us a glimpse of turnaround teams and proves that the elite players are still very much top-tier talents. Our thoughts after teams stowed away the pads for spring:

Breakout players

Trent Chmelik, Countryside: The junior, who is taking over as the full-time starting quarterback, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another against Citrus.

Donavan Hale, Largo: The Packers have installed a spread offense with longer routes to take advantage of Hale's cannon of an arm. Against Palm Harbor University, Hale threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns. After that performance, Hale picked up offers from Indiana and Virginia Tech, which both want him as a quarterback.

Sherwin Emmanuel, Pasco: The 6-foot-6 defensive end has the size and athleticism to be a star and drew rave reviews in a spring game win over Land O'Lakes. Don't be surprised if the converted basketball player dominates as a senior in his only full football season.

Gage Holt, Jesuit: The fullback was just a backup last season for the Tigers, but the 5-foot-10 "hybrid guy," as coach Matt Thompson refers to him, caught pass after pass in Jesuit's spring game win vs. Dixie Hollins, accruing 113 receiving yards, including a 35-yard touchdown.

Patrick Lukert, Steinbrenner: The junior-to-be linebacker had a breakout performance in the spring game, getting in on three sacks in two quarters of action against Alonso.

Brad Mayes, Berkeley Prep: Yeah, we know, he's a known commodity. But he looked bigger, stronger and the ball seemed to shoot out of his hand in the spring game win. If the Bucs turn him loose, with guys like Jacob Mathis and Cade Weldon to catch his passes, look out.

Jeff Smith Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic: The dual-threat quarterback, who is in his first full season as a starter, put up big numbers against always tough Immokalee with 193 yards passing and 114 rushing.

Derrick Walker, Alonso: Quarterback Chris Oladokun is a known commodity and a major-college prospect for the class of 2016. As impressive as Oladokun was in a comeback win over Steinbrenner in the jamboree, it's worth remembering Walker was the player on the other end of Oladokun's passes, catching two touchdowns and totaling 101 receiving yards in the final quarter.

Mitchell Wilcox, Tarpon Springs: The tight end/defensive lineman became a coveted prospect with several offers, including one from USF. In the spring jamboree, Wilcox caught two passes for 38 yards and was in on several plays in the backfield as a pass rusher against Northeast.

Jordan Williams, Dunedin: On a team devoid of depth, the Falcons will rely on their most versatile player to make plays on both sides of the ball. Against Seminole, Williams had a touchdown reception, scored on a punt return and recorded an interception, all in the final five minutes of regulation.

Kal-El Williams, Pinellas Park: The rising senior is named after Superman, for crying out loud. At 6-foot, 230 pounds, he is a pounding fullback who will also play linebacker. Williams was a main ball carrier last season and his load will increase this year.

Surprise teams to watch for the fall

Blake: Don't laugh, we think the Yellow Jackets have something cooking. Coach Darryl Gordon had as many as 40 kids out in the spring, and guys like uber-recruit Shavar Manuel, linebacker Julian Jackson, potential (dare we say probable?) 1,000-yard rusher Corey Bennett and promising playmakers like Juwan Burgess and Isaiah Rogers will contribute to at least one upset and a .500 season. Now, about that district…

Bloomingdale: Coach John Booth was extremely positive about his team's growth in the offseason, and the Bulls could give Plant a run for its money in Class 8A, District 6. Bloomingdale returns leading receivers Logan Crouse and Doug Sandberg, picked up Riverview's leading rusher Fred McCoy (more than 700 yards last season), and with quarterback Isaiah McIntyre coming back, too, an offense that put up 40 points against the Panthers last season could be better yet.

Dunedin: Matt LePain has a knack for turning teams into contenders. After guiding Palm Harbor University to its first two playoff appearances in three seasons as coach, LePain left to take over the Falcons. He didn't have much depth with only 25 players dressed for the spring game against Seminole. With many players going both ways and several cramping in the second half, Dunedin found the wherewithal to score two touchdowns in the final five minutes to force a 16-16 tie. That should give them enough momentum to at least be in the hunt for a playoff berth this fall.

Gibbs: The Gladiators have more talent than people think. Rising senior Craig Watts Jr. and rising sophomore Marquez Walls have gotten major-college offers. Tayveon Landsm might be the most overlooked back in the area. He ripped off huge chunks of yards against Northeast and Tarpon Springs in the jamboree before leaving with an ankle injury. Coach Rick Kravitz was raving about offensive/defensive lineman Latroy Killens after the jamboree. If Gibbs finds a quarterback (it's looking at four players) and the offensive line holds up, this could be a big improvement over last year's 4-6 team.

River Ridge: After consecutive 3-7 seasons, fourth-year coach Ryan Benjamin has a team capable of contending for the school's first playoff appearance in 16 seasons, which is one of the longest droughts in the bay area. In a 43-0 win over Fivay, the Royal Knights showed off a balanced attack with Chris Schwarz rushing for 112 yards, and Pat Mathieson throwing for 216 yards and four touchdowns.

Guys we think will blow up this fall

Oscee Calhoun, Pinellas Park: Calhoun is one of three talented backs for the Patriots, and perhaps the most overlooked. The rising senior sliced through Orlando Evans in the spring game, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. With Kal-El Williams and Donte Maxson sharing carries, Calhoun could be the second-half hammer who racks up yards against worn-out defenses.

Jonathan Crawford, Largo: Known more as a hard-hitting linebacker, Crawford could have more of an impact as receiver. In the spring game against Palm Harbor University, Crawford had seven catches for 120 yards and two TDs in three quarters.

Donnie Crum, Admiral Farragut: A rising sophomore, Crum will get his first chance to get significant carries in the fall. He proved what he can do in the spring against Gainesville Hawthorne, rushing for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the Blue Jackets' 51-8 win. Crum appears to be a legitimate 1,000-yard back.

Kevin Newman, Jesuit: Newman was strong last year for the 8-4 Tigers, and it carried over to the spring. In Jesuit's blowout spring victory against Dixie Hollins, Newman rushed for 121 yards in three quarters, including 65-, 40-, 4- and 2-yard touchdowns. The 6-foot-1 rising senior has put on 10 pounds in the weight room, and with an experienced offensive line blocking for him, Newman could be one to watch.

Willie Parker, Carrollwood Day: Calling it now: he and teammate Elias Earley will run for at least 3,000 combined yards.

We've got plenty more thoughts on spring at tampabay.com/hometeam.

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