High School Football 2020: It’s Finally Here

The 2020 version of the high school school football season in the sunshine state has finally kicked off, but like everything else around the globe–it’s behind schedule and with significant modifications as we push forward into very new territory.

That got us thinking–How could we get caught up to speed as quickly as possible now that the curtain has been pulled and the audience awaits their performance? Well, use an old strategy of course! The easiest way to figure out is to follow old-reliable aka the K-W-L method to sort this whole thing out.

The “K” standing for what we know already, the “W” for what we want to know, and the “L” representing what we’ve learned. What we know is fairly mundane at this point. That comes in the form of quick-glances at 2019 results, or stats, documented transfers or even trends within the program as a whole using a set of parameters. Right now, what we want to know can only be posed in the form of a question, and what we’ve learned can only be applied in extremely limited fashion with the bulk of it yet to be determined. For today’s purposes, we will be dealing with the K and W parts of this strategy.

The first three teams in this three-step process up to the line of scrimmage are Plant, Nature Coast Tech, and Wharton. All three with their own inherent obstacles heading into the season coming off 2019 campaigns rich with adversity.

PLANT: What We Know: The Panthers’ 2019 season represented the very essence of what it means to have things come full circle. Sans a global pandemic, this might have been the biggest story in our HSFB world What we witnessed during the 16-yr tenure of Robert Weiner was nothing short of amazing and there might not be another one like it anytime soon. It may be a needless reminder to some, but it’s worth a recap regardless of those feelings.

First, by our calculations, Coach Weiner’s record at Plant finished at 166-31-1. We know that Panthers first season under Weiner in 2004 began with a 3-7 record, and his final season in 2019 ended with a 4-6 mark. That’s where the symmetry lies, but the line in-between looks like a SpaceX rocket.

Robert Weiner leads his team out for game day warmups.

What we know is that the Panthers (before last season) went 14-consecutive seasons with a winning record. During that time under Weiner, they won four state titles in three different classes and played for two more. They won 14-consecutive district championships during his span. They had 12-seasons where they won a minimum of 10 games as well.

We know that last season, things came crashing down for the first six games, but the Panthers finished on a 4-game winning streak, and blowing out their opponents at that. We know that Tucker Gleason and his near-1,800 yards of offense are gone as well. We know that gone off their schedule are Tampa Bay Tech, Gaither, and Bloomingdale. We know that replacing them are Hillsborough (last played in ’18 but 8-2 in their last 10 meetings), Sickles (last played in ’18 but 8-0 in their last 8) and Lennard, who they’ll face for the first time in school history. We also know that Robinson, Armwood, and Gonzaga from Washington DC remain on their schedule in addition to their district foes of Steinbrenner, Palm Harbor University, Alonso, and Wharton. The Panthers defeated Robinson, PHU, Alonso, and Wharton by a combined score of 164-14.

Finally what we know about Plant is that Cyril Brockmeier has been tasked to lead the Panthers into their new era and with it comes a sense of security and familiarity with Brockmeier having been in charge of the JV program.

What do we want to know or learn about the Panthers? Well, where do we begin? Aside from the obvious ones about team chemistry, what the offense and defense will look like, etc. There seems to be a Covid-19 unique inquiry on the horizon. Will the game with Gonzaga ever be played? There’s absolutely no-telling whether or not out-of-state teams will be allowed to travel, and if the already-canceled De La Salle (CA) at North Shore (TX) clash of the titans is any indication, the Panthers may be needing a 10th or rolling the dice with 9 to get a new postseason streak going.

NATURE COAST TECH: What we know (or perhaps learned already?) is that Nature Coast Tech is becoming the epicenter of running back success. Not just along the North Suncoast, but throughout the entire region from Brooksville to Bradenton and beyond. Yeah, we said, what we said. Aside from the obvious with Matt Breida tearing up the NFL, we know the Sharks have compiled 19,271 yards on the ground the past five seasons. That’s good for an average of 3,854 per season. Last season, they did it by committee, but guys like Mike Weston, TJ Owens, Bryan Haygood, and Deshawn Smith have comprehensively torn up grass fields from stem to stern in seasons’ past.

Nature Coast RB Kyle Mcintosh

We know that HC Cory Johns has made the postseason all three years he’s been at the school. We know that NCT is currently on a streak of 5-straight postseason appearances along with four district titles to go with that. We know that the Sharks have tallied 10+ wins three of the last five seasons, but finished with a pedestrian (by their standards) 6-6 record. Their first 6-loss season since 2013. Don’t get it twisted however, their schedule is pound-for-pound as tough as it gets for a 5A team around these parts. We know this because their non-district schedule includes the likes of East Lake, South Sumter, Springstead, Wiregrass Ranch, and River Ridge. We know their district includes Crystal River, Hernando, Brooksville Central, Weeki Wachee, and Citrus. We also know their 2020 schedule is identical to the one they had in 2019. We also know that NCT went 0-2 against their biggest rivals inside of the county, Springstead, and Hernando, and that doesn’t sit well AT ALL with them.

What we want to know about Nature Coast is who will be this year’s stud in the backfield? How will the loss of Fabian Burnett impact the Sharks regardless of who’s carrying the rock? The Sharks *have been known in the past* to have plenty of hogs up front that can push dudes around on both sides of the ball, but will they clearly have people that can do it against a monster non-district schedule again this season?

WHARTON: What we know is that Wildcats finished up 2019 with a winning campaign at 6-4, their first one since 2015 when they somehow missed the playoffs at 8-2. What we know is that David Mitchell is gone after 14 seasons at the helm leaving with a record of 73-74 in that time. We know that the Wildcats have not made the playoffs since 2013. At the beginning of Mitchell’s tenure, the ‘Cats won 8+ games three of the first four years, but then just twice in the last decade. We also know that former Middleton HC Mike Williams is now in charge over in New Tampa. We also know he will face his former squad with his new squad this season.

Wharton QB, Pete Stuart

We know that Brandon, Leto, and Strawberry Crest (who they went 3-0 against) are off the schedule this season, and coming on-board are East Bay (who they’ve not faced since 2014), the aforementioned Middleton, who Wharton has not faced since 2008, and Durant, who has not been on the schedule since 2012. We know that local rivals Freedom, along with Lennard and King (who Wharton went 2-1 against last season) remain on the docket in addition to Palm Harbor University, Alonso, Plant, and Steinbrenner from the district.

Finally, we know that Ed Marcelin is gone on the defensive side with his 94 tackles, 7TFL’s and 10 sacks are gone, but there’s a boatload of rising-Junior talent that were major contributors last season on that side.

What we want to know is how much of an adjustment will there be with a new coach, new offseason rules, and no spring season to work those kinks out? Fourteen seasons under one person is a long time and there are surely some new ways that need to be set. Finally, how will the Wildcats respond to a much tougher schedule than 2019?

These are just the tip of the iceberg, but more will obviously come as we continue. Stay tuned for the next installment that will include K’s and W’s for Tampa Bay Tech, Gaither, and Jesuit.