The new football districts are pretty screwy (8A? Really?) and shake up the matchups we’ve come to know and love over the past few years. We’re taking a look at a district a day, with Class 8A, District 6 on tap today.
Out with the old
Chamberlain and Gaither are left behind from the old 5A-5 district they shared with Alonso and Plant, which both move up to the state’s largest class.
In with the new
Bloomingdale and Wharton join from their respective 5A classes, creating a four-team district that includes schools from all corners of the county. We wish Wharton luck navigating from New Tampa to Westchase in rush-hour traffic for a district game. Our advice: Leave early.
Five things to expect this fall
Plant will face a daunting nondistrict schedule: A four-team district leaves some open spots on the schedule. So mix in some of the county’s top teams (Armwood, Hillsborough, Jesuit, Robinson, TBT) and sprinkle in some national powers — preseason classic vs. Miami Columbus and a pending Week 3 game against Bergen (N.J.) Catholic at Manatee — and you have a schedule fit for a champion.
People will doubt Plant, and Plant will prove said people wrong: After the Panthers won two state titles in 4A, some said they wouldn’t be able to do it in 5A. Then they won another title. Now they make a jump to the new 8A. The Panthers might drop a few games early, but we’re keeping our feet away from our mouths this year.
Big things from Wharton: The Wildcats have a wealth of young talent in New Tampa, and by the end of the season you will know about it — and could anoint them as the best team on the rise.
Baby steps at Bloomingdale: The Bulls won just two games last season, but that was two more than 2009. Buuuut, those wins came against Leto and Riverview, which were a combined 0-20 on the field. Coach John Booth is leading the program in the right direction, but 8A will be a bear for the Bulls.
A search for stability at Alonso: New coach Brian Emanuel is the program’s third coach in three seasons. Alonso has been stuck at four regular-season wins the past two years, but made the postseason both times. This year it will likely need more.
Players to watch
WR Austin Aikens, Plant: Big-play receiver (35 receptions, 820 yards, six TDs) averaged 23.5 yards a catch; has plenty of D-I interest.
WR/DB Antonio Crawford, Plant: Latest in a line of multidimensional two-way skill players to blossom in their senior season at Plant.
RB Brandon Holloway, Alonso: Arguably one of the fastest players in Hillsborough County; the senior will have a breakout season.
CB Vernon Hargreaves, Wharton: Future is now for one of the bay area’s top Class of 2013 recruits.
QB Chase Litton, Wharton: From what we’ve seen of this sophomore, he’s a poised signal caller (106 QB rating last year) who has just scratched the surface of his talent.
Mark your calendars
Wharton at Plant, Oct. 6: Considering the rivalry these teams have developed over the 7-on-7 season, they’ll be old foes by then. Our early take is that this game could decide a district title.
“Wharton to me, we’ve seen a lot of them recently, they look like one of the up-and-coming teams. They’re going to be really tough. Alonso’s a team we’ve battled with over the years, so we know they’re going to be just as much up for the challenge. Bloomingdale we haven’t seen much of, but it looks like they’re on the up and up. The most important thing is that you take care of your district first and don’t get too far ahead. We know it’s going to be a challenge and we look forward to it. In the end, you can go 3-7 and as long as those three wins are those three games, you’re in good shape.” — Plant coach Robert Weiner
Also in the series so far:
Class 2A, District 5