During the next few weeks leading up to the first game of the 2013 high school football season, The Laker/Lutz News sports staff is previewing the new districts marked up by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Our third installment in the series takes a look at Class 6A-District 6:
Meet the teams
Fivay (6-4, 5-2 in 5A-6)
Land O’ Lakes (4-6, 2-5)
Mitchell (6-4, 3-4)
Springstead (9-2, 6-1)
Sunlake (8-2, 5-2)
GATORS’ DYNAMIC DUO
Land O’ Lakes’ success in 6A-6 this season may rest on the arms of quarterbacks James Pensyl and Ethan Weilant.
Pensyl looked impressive at times during the Gators’ spring game loss against Pasco on May 23 finishing 8-of-17 with one touchdown and one interception. He also added 30 rushing yards. And Weilant, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, turned plenty of heads with his performance in the North Suncoast 7-on-7 summer league. He even lined up at wide receiver at times.
While Pensyl looks to be the favorite to land the starting job in Week 1 after he passed for 946 yards last season, the battle could end up down to the wire for Land O’ Lakes, which is looking to end its two-year playoff drought and get past the dark cloud of recruiting violation penalties handed down by the FHSAA in 2011.
The Gators have the offensive weapons to do just that, but their final place in the standings will depend on how they use them against the slate of tough district opponents.
SEAHAWKS HOPE TO KEEP SOARING
Sunlake has been one of the most dominant teams in Pasco County during the past three seasons, racking up back-to-back wins over rival Land O’ Lakes and 26 total wins.
However, the Seahawks didn’t have the best spring jamboree by losing to Wiregrass Ranch 7-0, but fared better in their 21-0 win against a young Wesley Chapel squad.
“We got our feet wet,” Coach Bill Browning said after the game. “At times we swam, at times we treaded water, and at times we drowned.”
Growing pains early in the season are to be expected, and projected starting quarterback Esteban LeWallen, who is Sunlake’s fourth starter in as many seasons, did not even step onto the field in the spring games due to personal reasons.
But the loss of quarterback Josh Zifer, 1,000-yard rusher Eddie Burgos and linebacker Ray Busbee to graduation might be too much to overcome, especially after the Seahawks missed the playoffs with an 8-2 record last season. And with the way the district is shaping up again, they may have to repeat that performance to earn a shot at a postseason berth.
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Ben Wood, inside linebacker, Sunlake
Wood was a key part of Browning’s defense last season by racking up 86 tackles (56 solo), seven sacks and three forced fumbles. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior also split time on offense at tight end. If Wood and company can repeat his masterful performance, expect Sunlake to be in the playoff conversation once again.
Austin McGuire, halfback, Land O’ Lakes
McGuire was impressive against a tough Pasco High defense in the Gators’ spring game, helping stage a late comeback against the Pirates by scoring a touchdown and leading multiple drives down the field. The junior, along with teammate Larenz Scroggins, could be Land O’ Lakes’ go-to-guy this season after racking up 145 yards on 10 carries last year.