It’s Polk County’s world and the rest of us are just paying rent apparently as we begin the start of the 2015 campaign. Going into the season, Polk County can boast as having the reigning state champions in Class 2A from Victory Christian Academy, as well as claim several other accomplishments from some of their county teams. For instance, five teams found themselves in the top 10 of the AP’s preseason rankings as well as having two teams start the season at number-one for the first time since 2006.
This season, BCP calculated and ranked the schedules of all the teams from the six counties within the coverage area of Hernando, Pasco, Hilsborough, Polk, Pinellas and Manatee Counties. According to our formula, seven of the top ten teams with the toughest schedules in the region hail from Polk County with the top six all from there as well. Ten of the top twenty teams are from Polk with a total of fourteen of the programs coming inside the Top 50 toughest schedules.
Taking a closer look at the top four teams on the list, you can see why that if these teams hit a 7-8 game win mark their seasons could be deemed huge successes even if a state title isn’t achieved. Bartow, Kathleen, Winter Haven and Lake Wales all play a schedule that is composed of at least 70% of teams that made the playoffs in 2014 while leaving the county sparingly.
Bartow leaves the county just once, but leaves it to play the Class 7A runners-up at Kissimmee-Osceola then faces a total of seven playoff teams from last season. Those teams are Osceola, Auburndale, Lakeland, Kathleen, Bishop Moore, Winter Haven and Lake Wales. Their district is made up of just four teams, but all four teams made the playoffs last season between themselves, Lakeland, Kathleen and Winter Haven.
Kathleen will leave Polk County twice while playing the second-toughest schedule when they head up to Tallahassee to play Leon High School and Stuart to play at South Fork High School. If you count their fall classic game versus Lake Wales, they’ll face eight teams that made the playoffs in 2014. Those teams were Lake Gibson, Viera, Auburndale, Winter Haven, Bartow, Lakeland and Leon.
Winter Haven faces seven playoff teams from 2014 when they host Columbus, the 8A runners-up in their preseason classic. They will not leave the friendly confines of Polk at all this season, but will face Kissimmee-Osceola, Auburndale, Lake Gibson, Kathleen, Lake Wales, Lakeland and Bartow.
Lake Wales leaves Polk County twice for Merritt Island early in the season and to Highlands County to face Sebring in district play. The Highlanders will also face Kathleen in their preseason classic in addition to Lake Gibson, Live Oak-Suwannee, Winter Haven, Auburndale and Bartow. All seven of those teams were in the playoffs last season.
Also on the list within the top ten were Haines City, Auburndale and Lake Region. Ridge Community and Lakeland’s schedules were god enough to be towards the back end of the top 20 while Jenkins, Lake Gibson, Victory Christian and Lakeland Christian all made the top 50 with their strengths of schedule. This preseason ranking is the highest that Lake Gibson has been ranked since 2007.