Hillsborough County: What we’ve learned in 2016 -already

Our stroll through the Tampa Bay area and the BCP coverage area looking at the progress made so far this year continues. Today, we take a look at Hillsborough County and what we have learned in the brief two months that our calendars have been flipped over to 2016. The format remains the same–we take a look at the players, coaches and “other” factors such as transfers and their impact on the young season.

So, what have we learned in Hillsborough in 2016 through two months?

Daquon Green vs. Bentlee Sanders at Ignite
Daquon Green vs. Bentlee Sanders at Ignite

We’ve learned that it’s Hillsborough County’s time to shine. Twenty-four of the Top 49 in BCP’s overall rankings are from Hillsborough. Six of the Top 10 hail from the Hills with four out of the top five spots claimed as well. We’ve been banging this drum literally for years that once the classes of 2017 and 2018 got to this point in their high school careers, we were all going to witness something special from the kids out Hillsborough–and now is their moment of truth.

We’ve learned that 2016 is the “Return of Cade Weldon.” The Jefferson QB was injured at the beginning of last season against Tampa Bay Tech, and even though the Dragons still managed to make it to the postseason in his absence, there’s nothing like the real thing–and that’s having your bonafide division one signal-caller back at the helm. All indications are that Weldon is bigger, faster and stronger upon return and if he picks up where he left off after his sophomore season, scoreboards are likely to be set on fire. Weldon produced 2,103 yards passing and 366 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns for the Dragons the last time he played a full season in Carver City.

We’ve learned that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Of course, we are speaking of transfers. Although the year is in its infant stages at this point, we’ve already seen a seismic shift take place. Michael Penix Jr’s transfer from Pasco to Tampa Bay Tech could prove to be huge because of Daquon Green’s presence (duh), but now the onus is shifted squarely onto accountability along the offensive line. All of that offensive firepower is useless if the southpaw Penix Jr. is constantly running around. If his OL can give him time and keep his jersey relatively clean–he and Green are a special duo in the making.

Michael Penix Jr. at Ignite in January
Michael Penix Jr. at Ignite in January

We’ve learned that Hillsborough County has this whole “coaching consistency” thing fairly well accomplished. Eight coaches with at least ten years at their current program or starting their tenth season this year. They are Armwood’s Sean Callahan starting his 27th season on the job in Seffner, Hillsborough’s Earl Garcia beginning his 24th season for the Big Red, Berkeley Prep’s Dom Ciao beginning his tenth season for the Bucs, Durant’s Mike Gottman starting his 13th year while Carollwood Day School’s Lane McLaughlin is starting his eleventh–McLaughlin is also the only coach the Patriots have known since their inception in 2006. Also on that list are Newsome’s Ken Hiscock beginning his eleventh season out in Fish Hawk, Plant’s Robert Weiner beginning his 13th in South Tampa and Wharton’s David Mitchell beginning his twelfth in New Tampa.

Coaches that COULD be joining that fraternity in the not-so-distant future are Spoto’s Dale Caparaso beginning his ninth season out in Progress Village and is just the second coach in the Spartans’ eleven-year existence. Cambridge Christian’s Bob Dare is beginning his eighth season following a state title appearance in 2015 and with plenty of groceries in the cupboard for at least two more years. East Bay’s Frank LaRosa is beginning his seventh season in Gibsonton.

Tampa Bay Tech’s Jayson Roberts became the all-time winningest coach in Titans history this past season and is just beginning his sixth season along with Alonso’s Brian Emanuel. And although Brandon’s Dean Eychner is only beginning his fifth season, he has guided the Eagles to the best two-year stretch at 16-6 since 1985 and 1986 when they went 19-5–which, would probably ensure that as long as he wants to be around, Brandon would be happy to have him.