Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Prep football gets under way with kickoff classics


There was spring practice, and the 7-on-7 summer workouts. Now, as the kids returned to school this week, it's time for the high school football season to start, with a number of kickoff classics slated for Friday. • The exhibition games are a chance for coaches to see if their offenses are taking shape and whether the seniors are ready to step into leadership roles. There may even be a surprise or two in store from unlikely players. • Above all, they'll be looking to get some work in against another team, to stay healthy and to get ready for next week's season openers. • All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., except for a 3 p.m. Saturday matchup pitting powerhouses Tallahassee Godby against Plant at Raymond James Stadium.

Tampa Catholic at Sickles

Why you should go: Because Sickles junior quarterback Issac Holder has been waiting in the wings and is about to be set loose. With Holder and dynamic running back Ray Ray McCloud behind a very good offensive line, the Gryphons are expected to put up plenty of points in 2013. In Tampa Catholic, Sickles will face a 3A team that could go deep in the playoffs.

Gaither at Wharton

Why you should go: To see two of Hillsborough County's best passers — Gaither QB Alex McGough and Wharton QB Chase Litton — who combined to throw for almost 4,500 yards and 45 touchdowns last season.

Steinbrenner at Sunlake

Why you should go: Kezio Snelling. The junior wide receiver/kick returner is worth the price of admission. Snelling returned kickoffs 75 and 80 yards for touchdowns in the Warriors' spring game, along with a short scoring run.

Alonso at King

Why you should go: The Ravens may be a surprise team in the Class 8A, District 6 race. Alonso has a new quarterback in Chris Oladokun, who will have top-notch help from RB Ish Witter (900-plus yards in 2012), pictured, and TE Marcus Mosley (five TD catches last season). King, meanwhile, is looking to improve on last year's two-win total.

Bloomingdale at Freedom

Why you should go: The Patriots, behind new QB D.J. Grant and receivers Andre Folkes and Johnny Rodicio, won a 7-on-7 passing tournament this summer in Plant City. With a hot passing game and an anticipated better defense, Freedom could make a run at its first playoff spot since 2009.

Chamberlain at East Bay

Why you should go: To see how Chamberlain responds to losing its coach. Cam Jones, the Chiefs' offensive coordinator last season, has taken over the program after D.J. Mayo stepped down. On the field, senior linebacker Anthony Davis is a solid defender.

Gulf at Berkeley Prep

Why you should go: Junior quarterback Brad Mayes may very well put on a show. He threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score in a spring game victory.

Riverview at Leto

Why you should go: To see if this is the year Leto can bust out of its funk. The Falcons were winless in 2012, have won just seven games in the past five seasons and haven't totaled more than three wins in a season since 2007, when they won four.

Cooper City at Armwood

Why you should go: To see if Armwood will be the potent squad it usually is. The Hawks are breaking in a new quarterback and had an injury-plagued summer. Armwood, however, is still Armwood.

Plant City at Jefferson

Why you should go: Here's a chance to see one of the area's top playmakers in Jefferson quarterback Deiondre Porter (27 TDs last season) go up against what is being billed as a stout Plant City defense.

Osceola at Robinson

Why you should go: To get a look at two playoff teams from 2012 that will try to make noise again in their respective districts: Osceola in Class 6A-7 and Robinson in 6A-8.

Blake at Tampa Bay Tech

Why you should go: Because this may be the year Blake's football team is better than its band. The Yellow Jackets' passing squad took second in a summer 7-on-7 tournament. The team should find out where it stands pretty quickly against a Tech squad loaded on offense and defense.

Orlando Oak Ridge at Durant

Why you should go: To see how Durant handles last season's success. The Cougars posted the program's first-ever unbeaten regular season in 2012 and should be in the 7A-8 district mix again.

Strawberry Crest at Middleton

Why you should go: Strawberry Crest may be a team on the rise with a solid passer in QB Tristan Hyde, who threw for 20 touchdowns last season. But how will he fare against Middleton's improved defense, now heading into its third season under coach Alonzo Ashwood?

Hillsborough at Clearwater

Why you should go: To marvel at Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia, who is heading into his 40th season (as a head coach and assistant combined) and does so with a standout quarterback in Dwayne Lawson.

Spoto at Newsome

Why you should go: Newsome fans will find out if the Wolves can replace do-it-all player Will Worth, who totaled 2,000-plus yards of offense last season before signing with the Naval Academy.

Lakewood Ranch at Brandon

Why you should go: Brandon is in rebuilding mode and will look for positives against the Mustangs.

Seffner Christian at Northside Christian

Why you should go: Seffner Christian has some weapons on offense, but it may be turnaround time for Northside after a winless campaign last season in coach Mike Alstott's first year at the helm.

Lennard at St. Petersburg Catholic

Why you should go: SPC will give Lennard's defense a steady dose of RB Tony Jones. Lennard is looking for improvement after a winless 2012.

Tallahassee Godby vs. Plant

(3 p.m. Saturday at Raymond James Stadium)

Why you should go: To watch two powers go at it, even if it's preseason. Godby captured the 5A state title last season. Meanwhile, coach Robert Weiner's crew from South Tampa begins its quest for its fifth state title in eight years.


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