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  1. Sports

District spotlight on Hillsborough

TAMPA — With a quarterback like Dwayne Lawson under center the past three years, it was hard for Hillsborough to not be considered an offensive team. In three years as the Terriers' starter, the Virginia Tech signee threw for more than 6,000 yards and 55 touchdowns.

Now that Lawson's gone on to join the college ranks, Hillsborough might have a new identity.

Veteran coach Earl Garcia raved about his defense, which will feature four-star defensive end Zach Carter and a group of defensive backs he says are the best he's had in more than a decade.

"I think we were thought of as an offensive team last year. We had a couple offensive shootouts in games we ended up winning," Garcia said. "This year we're asking our defensive to hold the fort while our quarterback gets some time under the lights. … We're asking our defense to win games for us while we're gaining that experience on offense."

That's not to say Hillsborough, which has made the playoffs five of the past six years, hasn't had strong defenses.

The Terriers gave up fewer than 14 points in five of 11 games last season, including two shutouts. Other times, however, Hillsborough struggled to keep points off the board, giving up 49 in a victory against Durant and 35 in its playoff loss to Venice.

But just because Hillsborough's defense might steal the show come Aug. 28, doesn't mean its offense is a lost cause.

Lawrence Dawsey Jr., who backed up Lawson last year while taking kickoffs, punts and placekicking, will start under center. At 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, the senior and son of former Florida State and NFL wide receiver Lawrence Dawsey will look a lot different than his predecessor, who stood at 6-5, 205 pounds.

Garcia, though, isn't worried about a thing.

"It will be very similar, although we have a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback. We're still going to run spread and still be a formation football team," Garcia said. "I know Lawrence brings some things to the table that Dwayne didn't. We're in capable hands with Lawrence."

Contact Kelly Parsons at kaparsons@tampabay.com. Follow @_kellyparsons.

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