It is the season that shouldn't have been. Only 12 seniors are listed on the roster. And the offensive juggernaut began the season reduced to a shadow of its former explosive self.
Hillsborough had gotten off to a slow start and had just suffered a heartbreaking 9-7 last-minute loss to King. In their next game, the Terriers were trailing Gaither 10-0 at halftime. Things were looking bleak.
"It would have been much easier to give up at that point and say that this was a rebuilding year for us," Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said.
Garcia had been looking for someone to step up and take a vocal leadership role on the team.
That is when Aleous Chambers decided it was time for him to say something about the way the team was playing.
Chambers went to Garcia at halftime of the Gaither game and asked the coaches to step outside and let him handle matters.
"I basically just told the team that I was not going to lose that game," Chambers said. "I said that I was going to put everything on the line and that you were either with me or not. That I was going to do something to win this game."
All Chambers did was break off a 60-plus yard touchdown run and finish the game with two touchdowns as Hillsborough went on to win 26-10.
"I knew (Chambers) was going to do something happen to win that game," Garcia said. "We were given the chance to improve. The team really matured."
Since that game, Hillsborough has not lost and stands one step from the 6A state finals.
Chambers said he had teammates thanking him after the game for the pep talk, including leading receiver Benji Drawdy.
That is when things turned around for the Terriers. But things turned around for Chambers about 10 months earlier, when his daughter, Aejona, was born.
"I never realized that a person could love so much," Chambers said of himself. "I was somewhat carefree before, but now I know that whatever I do I am representing her as well as myself. She has helped me focus on life."
PENSACOLA (12-1) at HILLSBOROUGH (12-1)
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 tonight, Chelo Huerta Field, 5000 Central Ave.
COACHES: Pensacola _ Mike Bennett; Hillsborough _ Earl Garcia.
KEY PLAYERS: Pensacola _ RB Demontray Carter (271 carries, 2,734 yards); QB Larry Simmons (58-of-114 for 1,071 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INT); WR Bo Travis (26 receptions, 509 yards, 6 TDs); MLB Ben Waldrop (168 tackles); DT William Kimbrough (116 tackles). Hillsborough _ QB Jeremy Earle (1,426 yards); RB/LB Aleous Chambers, FS Marco Williams, WR Benji Drawdy (36 receptions, 602 yards).
UP NEXT: The winner moves on to the Class 6A final Dec.
21 in Daytona against the winner of the Miami Carol City-Hialeah Miami Lakes game.
21 Fort Walton Beach 18 24 Brandon 17
16 FWB Choctawhatchee (OT) 13 28 Countryside 21
25 Pine Forest 16 17 Plant City 7
26 Panama City Mosley 20 7 King 9
33 Washington 12 26 Gaither 10
24 Niceville 32 3 East Lake 0
68 Gonzalez Tate 46 42 Seminole 0
33 Sidmor Lanier (Ala.) 14 35 Chamberlain 6
24 Escambia 14 38 Leto 6
47 Woodham 14 35 Bloomingdale 28
20 Tallahassee Lincoln 19 35 Brandon 30
21 Winter Park Lake Howell 7 7 Dr. Phillips 0
10 Sarasota Riverview 7 37 Niceville 7
SUMMARY: The key to shutting down Pensacola's high-powered offense is stopping Demontray Carter _ but accomplishing that is no easy feat. Carter, who is approaching 6,000 yards in his three-year prep career, has rushed 271 times for 2,734 yards and 29 touchdowns this season. No. 1-ranked Sarasota Riverview held the 6-foot, 175-pound Carter to 45 yards last week on 25 carries, but Pensacola still managed to burn the Rams with an 85-yard touchdown pass to Bo Travis, which proved to be the difference. Hillsborough, meanwhile, is coming off one of its best efforts _ perhaps the best effort _ this season, a 37-7 domination of Niceville. Niceville handed Pensacola its only loss. In this game, however, the Terriers' offense is going to have to help a little more because the defense will have its hands full.
HOOPER'S PICK: Hillsborough 15, Pensacola 14.