Well our spring fling is over. Time to put the pads back on the shelves for the next couple of months and pray that the dry weather doesn’t turn the fields into the dust bowl a la Grapes of Wrath. Time to pull out the film and start breaking down what’s going to happen next for the fall preparations. 7-on-7 season is about to make its full appearance and the conversations will turn to “so and so look awesome, they’re really tearing it up this summer. District champs for sure.” While we still have the images of our boys knocking heads and the sounds of Friday Nights still somewhat fresh in our minds let’s go ahead and put some things to rest shall we?
The programs in Hillsborough County were first up to the plate with their games on the 20th. Although making sure-handed assessments based off of ONE half of football are pretty tough, I think it’s safe to say there’s three categories that these teams will fit in to. (Alert: Captain Obvious is about to appear. Back to your regularly scheduled tomfoolery.) First category is filled with the teams that are ecstatic and will carry momentum through the summer. The second category are the teams that are right about where they figured they’d be for the spring; maybe they have a few questions of concern, but overall there’s no reason to abandon ship. And then, there’s the teams that are doing some nervous head-scratching and hand-wringing.
My candidates for category #1 would most likely be Armwood, Hillsborough, Jefferson, and then throw in Durant and Steinbrenner. Obviously there’s some noticeable names left off this list, but I can explain that rather easily. Shortly, but first? Unless you cannot simply stand the thought of the ‘Wood being good at anything and refuse to acknowledge their existence, it’s almost silly to think that teams are going to score more than 14 points on that defense if everything is clicking on all cylinders. I’m not saying they can’t be beaten 14-10 on a night when the offense shoots itself in the foot, I’m just saying you’d better bring the same game they’ll bring on that side of the ball or else it’s not going to end well.
Hillsborough gets a hearty nod at category #1 simply because it takes a lot of work to put up 28 points in a half in a spring game. I absolutely refuse to believe that Middleton is that bad, and will instead believe that the Big Red had things going exactly they way they had planned for them to go. I’ll start taking bets (friendly ones of course) on how surprised any of us are if it’s HHS, Jefferson, and King are needing the following Monday on November 14th to decide who plays Largo in the first round of the playoffs.
As for Jefferson, I think they should feel as though the mission has been accomplished after beating Robinson. Especially with all of the questions surrounding the Dragons and life after the greatest run in school history sans Mr. Football Quentin Williams. Although Robinson is awfully young, they are going to once again make a run in a couple of years that should mirror that of the one we’ve just seen. Beating them nowadays is a quality win. Even if it’s a half. With regards to Durant, that’s a strong showing and makes the prospects of that district being a fight to the end with Newsome and Plant City seem even more realistic. Last, but not least it looks like the Warriors of Steinbrenner and Coach Floyd Graham are doing some work up in the Northwest end of the county after they shutout Alonso in a half of play 14-0. Starting only their 3rd year of football, Steinbrenner could be the fly in the ointment nobody is thinking about in that district.
Now for a couple of the teams that should feel as though it’s “steady as she goes” through the heat and humidity of the summer. This would be the largest category by far, and for purposes of getting to bed sometime before the summer solstice, I will touch on a few. I’d have to say the teams such as Plant, Jesuit, King, and TBT would walk away with a feeling of contentment.
I put Plant in this category because of the simple fact they played Leto. Like I’ve said, it’s hard to assess what’s going on from only a half, and even more difficult if it’s against a historically bad team. They’ve already moved on in South Tampa and so should the rest of us. The Panthers first week opponent Jesuit beat Newsome and I don’t care what you say, if you play Newsome you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get dirty. Not dirty in a bad way, but you’re going to have to take some bumps and bruises to get what you want. The Tigers have some studs and will be the clear-cut favorite in the district come fall in my opinion.
King and TBT should feel as though they did what they needed to do as well to feel good about things are going in. The Lions are going to put points up on the board at a blinding pace and that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Especially if they’re going to survive the season in their district. Jumping on teams early or being able to be a quick strike team will win them games that some people won’t expect them to. If the DL put pressure on the QB’s on their schedule like they did against Wharton, that may be the last piece of the puzzle. The Titans on the other hand may have only put up 7 points, but that was against a team quite familiar with them and now district-foe. Freedom is a team that appears to be added to the list of rivalry games on the TBT schedule and also a team that should be on this list. The half was 2 games in one. First Quarter belonging to the Patriots, but TBT was grinding in the 2nd and was as close to being in control of the game as they could’ve been at the point of ending.
The not-so-happy moments belong to Leto, Strawberry Crest, Middleton, and yes, Plant City. All of them have varying degrees of disappointment. First off, the four of them combined for ZERO points. Please find a silver-lining in that. I don’t think we expected the Falcons to score, but I for one did not see ‘Crest getting blanked, neither Middleton either. I wasn’t expecting the greatest show on earth either, I was (and would hope they were too) hoping for something a little more than that. I think I already excused Plant City because of their opponent, but that team IS better than that. If I was going to pick a team to reach that threshold of 14 against Armwood the Raiders would be one of those I could count on one hand. I guess maybe that’s why I’m concerned. If you want to add Alonso to this list, you can. Especially since you would expect them to at least get close enough to put up at least a FG. Something tells me they’ll find a way to look much different in the Fall.
Either I’m already losing my mind, or Pinellas County has some absolute ballers and dare I say it, a couple of chances to go beyond the 1st Round of the playoffs. That’s right I said a couple. Well, more than a couple. There’s a clearcut hierarchy at the top with East Lake, Largo, and Countryside claiming cream of the crop status. On the private side of life, I’d throw CCC and Admiral Farragut definitely into the mix as best in show. Even Calvary Christian put up an impressive result. Biggest surprise (literally) is this year’s version of the East Lake OL. Easily one of the Top 3 largest masses of high school humanity in this area. Good news for the fans in the county is that EL, C’Side, and Largo play each other. Even better news, none of them are in the same district so we could be in for a treat this Fall.
There’s going to be some feelings hurt I’m afraid when this Fire 49 List gets revisited for sure. Personal feeling about lists aside, there are players in Pinellas that matched side-by-side can play with their Hills counterparts and then some. For now, the concentration is on the team aspect of things, but you will find out soon enough when the breakdowns come who these studs are.
It once again appears that the balance of power is going to be on the Northside of Gulf-to-Bay if you don’t count Largo or Admiral Farragut. There’s Countryside, East Lake, and Palm Harbor University all with squads that have veterans at important positions. Schools like Northeast, Clearwater, Dunedin, and Seminole are going to give teams fits although they may not be on the winning side of the scoreboard that often. Teams like Lakewood, Boca Ciega, and Gibbs are going to have to fight through the usual challenges that have plagued South County for quite some time now. Lakewood’s game with Lakeland doesn’t hold much weight with me. I won’t judge the Spartans based one game against a team like the Dreadnaughts. Neither will I towards Gibbs since they played a Manatee team that is poised to carry a very high state ranking 2 classes above the Gladiators.