The 2016 high school football season is just around the corner, and several teams in The Laker/Lutz News’ Hillsborough County coverage area enter the year with intriguing storylines, standout players and must-see matchups.
Coach: Lane McLaughlin (10th year)
2015 record: 7-4
Spring Game result: 14-7 loss to Victory Christian
Coach: Floyd Graham (1st year)
2015 record: 3-7
Spring Game result: 7-0 win over King High
Coach: Jason Stokes (6th year)
2015 record: 4-6
Spring Game result: 7-0 win over Sickles High
Coach: Andres Perez-Reinaldo (5th year)
2015 record: 9-2
Spring Game result: 18-0 loss to Alonso High
Coach: David Mitchell (12th year)
2015 record: 8-2
Spring Game result: 14-0 loss to Hillsborough High
Three teams to watch:
The Patriots, coming off a 7-4 season, appear to be one of the more interesting teams in Tampa this year. Despite being a smaller school, their youthful talent rivals many of the area’s larger schools. Armed with a bevy of playmakers on offense — quarterback Raymond Woodie III, tailback Yahsin Wooten, and receivers Nazir Achecar and Markeis Colvin — the Patriots are likely to rack up a lot of yards and touchdowns against foes. But, in order to take the next step forward, the Patriots must find a few pass-rushers on defense that can pressure opposing quarterbacks and generate sacks, due to the departures of Zac Watson-Parcels (team-leading 11 sacks), Devon Connors (10 sacks) and Corey Shamley (seven sacks).
Despite coming off a disappointing 4-6 season, the Cowboys should have plenty to be excited about in 2016. After ending the 2015 campaign on a three-game win streak, the Cowboys return several impact players, including senior running backs Alex Rodriguez (805 yards, five touchdowns) and TJ Williams (391 yards, three touchdowns), and senior linebackers Decalon Brooks (114 tackles, five sacks) and Estefano Feliciano (73 tackles, six sacks). Though the team has several experienced playmakers on both sides of the ball, Gaither’s success may be determined by quarterback play — which must become more efficient. Gavin Deboer, the team’s incumbent quarterback from last season, struggled at times as a sophomore (48 percent rate, 10 interceptions.) If he can improve his touchdown-to-interception ratio and find a few reliable pass-catchers, Gaither may be in store for a winning season.
Coming off a breakout 9-2 season, the Warriors are looking to keep the upward momentum going in the 2016 campaign. With holes to fill on offense and defense, Coach Andres Perez-Reinaldo will need several players to step up this season. Gone are the team’s top two offensive skill players — running back Jay Dantley (1,269 yards, 13 touchdowns) and wide receiver Justin Moffatt (41 receptions, 641 yards, 8 touchdowns) — and the team’s top four leading tacklers from last season. On a positive note, junior quarterback Colin Wray looks to build off his stellar sophomore season (56 percent completion rate, 1,634 yards, 13 touchdowns) with a few reliable targets at his disposal in seniors Brett Bitter (35 receptions, 600 yards) and Carson Kaleo (34 receptions, 277 yards). Helping the Warriors immediately is the addition of hybrid linebacker Devon Connors (53 tackles, 10 sacks), a 6-foot-3, 234-pound senior transfer from Carrollwood Day School.
Three players to watch:
Gaither senior linebacker Decalon Brooks
Decalon Brooks, the son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer great and NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, is quickly making a name for himself. Brooks, who led the Cowboys in tackles (114) in 2015, holds several Division I offers, most notably from Florida State University and the University of Louisville. An inside linebacker at Gaither, the undersized Brooks (5-foot-10, 197-pounds) figures to transition to the safety position in college. Brooks, a consensus three-star recruit, is lauded by scouting services for his “aggressiveness, agility, athleticism and blitzing ability.”
Carrollwood sophomore quarterback Raymond Woodie III
Raymond Woodie III, the son of University of South Florida defensive coordinator Raymond Woodie Jr., will be a name to remember for the next several years. Just a sophomore, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound dual-threat quarterback already has seven Division I offers, highlighted by the University of Southern California. In 2015, Woodie III put together a stellar season (1289 yards, 11 touchdowns.) More refined, he’ll likely raise his completion percentage (53 percent) and cut down on turnovers (nine interceptions) in 2016. Recruiting services praise the young quarterback for his “strong arm” and “ability to extend plays with his feet.”
Steinbrenner senior kicker Noah Ruggles
It’s not often a kicker makes a player-to-watch list, but Noah Ruggles is a rare case, considering he’s one of the top prep kickers in the nation. According to KohlsKicking.com, Ruggles is ranked No. 5 for the class of 2017, and holds an offer from Vanderbilt University. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound senior is known for his “leg speed and athletic frame.” Last season, Ruggles made 37-of-38 extra-point attempts and 8-of-13 field goals with a long of 51 yards for Steinbrenner. Kicking runs in the family — Ruggles’ older brother, Michael, earned a scholarship as a punter for the University of Texas at El Paso in 2013.
Three games to watch:
Sickles High at Steinbrenner High, Aug. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Two teams coming off terrific 2015 seasons face off in a Week 1 rivalry game. Steinbrenner has the benefit of not having to matchup against former Sickles quarterback Chris Oladokun (1,390 yards, 15 touchdowns), who recently graduated. The last time these teams met was in 2014 — Steinbrenner won 15-7.
Tampa Catholic High at Gaither High, Aug. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Gaither appears to be overmatched in this contest, but fans will get to see a lot of Division I talent on the field for both sides. If Gaither can play a ball-control game, leaving the prodigious Tampa Catholic offense on the sidelines, they have a chance to keep it close.
Carrollwood Day School at Cambridge Christian School, Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m.
With ample experience on offense, Carrollwood will look to avenge last season’s 21-12 defeat to Cambridge Christian School. It won’t be easy, considering Cambridge returns most of their impact players from its 12-1 team in 2015. Also of note, Cambridge was undefeated (8-0) at home last season. Nevertheless, expect to see a lot of big plays and offensive highlights in this contest.
Published August 17, 2016