You have your favorite teams. Your alma mater. The intriguing matchups. The district showdowns. But if you're talking pure star power — not necessarily the best players but guys who are worth the price of admission — St. Petersburg Times high schools columnist John C. Cotey suggests you put these 10 on your list.
1. Aaron Murray, Plant
What else can be said? He's the most prolific passer in a prolific offense, with tons of targets to throw to, and he can run, too. Don't be surprised if he tops 1,000 yards. The golden-armed, cape-wearing Georgia commit is super, man. His kryptonite? Tonight's opponent, Armwood, is the only team that has stopped him.
2. Jarvis West, Gibbs
When I say keep an eye on him, I mean it. He'll be hard to find sometimes, lining up at running back one play, wide receiver the next, in the slot after that. He'll be easier to spot after the snap. He'll be the guy running free with the ball.
3. Quentin Williams, Jefferson
He's only a sophomore, but he has buzz around him, and he's surrounded by enough explosive talent — and he threw for 300 yards last week — that the Dragons should be fun to watch.
4. Maurice Hagens, Tampa Bay Tech
You can't miss him. He's 6 feet 1, 230 pounds and barely old enough to drive. But when he runs you over, you'll feel like you just got hit by a car. He could hit the trifecta this season, leading Hillsborough County in rushing, bruises and broken face masks. Don't say I didn't warn you.
5. Marcel Durham, Largo
Note to self: You can't go wrong picking a Packers game if you want to see exciting running backs. Durham is following in the footsteps of consecutive 2,000-yard rushers, but he has better blockers than they had. Oh, and he returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week. Whoosh.
6. Petey Smith, Armwood
Let's be honest. Most everyone watches the offense. But Smith gives you a reason to keep an eye on the defense. He's a fast, rolling boulder of a middle linebacker, and you'd be well-served to take a few plays to watch the other side of the ball.
7. Darius Bellamy, Dunedin
I said last year that he would lead the area in rushing this season. He's a perfect combination of power and grace. Watch him do the Riverdance as he slips through a hole, then lowers his head to crush a linebacker.
8. Lamar Lindsey, Hillsborough
He's crazy fast, and if he can handle the rigors of 25 carries a game and smash the stereotype of the brittle sprinter-turned-footballer, he'll smash some records, too. 9. The Joyer brothers, Wesley Chapel
I'm cheating a little, squeezing two guys into one spot (which, considering their size, is no easy task). Big, big, big brother Kamran (6 feet 3, 320), top, will be the one blocking. Hunter, lesser known but an intriguing force at fullback, will be the one carrying the ball behind him. He's 5-10, 225 pounds. Brace yourself.
10. Orson Charles, Plant
He has emerged as a star before he plays a down. What's the fuss all about, besides the pro body, speed, hands, intensity? I'm going to go find out tonight.
Okay, so 10 wasn't enough. Here's 10 more:
Mywan Jackson, QB, Armwood: New offense, more opportunities.
Mike Lang, WR, Largo: Big-play guy with track speed.
Josh Johnson, ATH, Pasco: Poor man's Jarvis West.
Micah Poole, WR/RB, Clearwater Central Catholic: Could go on any play.
Josh Brown, ATH, Dixie Hollins: Main cog in offense.
Allen Sampson, WR, Plant: Add Murray, you got instant offense.
Anthony Williams, WR, Chamberlain: Only question is will he see enough passes.
Ryne Giddins, DE, Armwood: While you're checking out Petey Smith …
Stevie Weatherford, QB, Land O'Lakes: Last in a long line, but best?
Jarvis Giles, RB, Gaither: New spread offense a hindrance or a help?
John Cotey can be reached at [email protected]