With the midway point of the 2017 prep football season recently passing by, here’s a look at some noteworthy teams and players in The Laker/Lutz News coverage.
Best team: Zephyrhills High Bulldogs (6-1 overall, 5-0 district)
Aside from an early season hiccup to Wiregrass Ranch (31-to-29 loss), the Bulldogs have planted themselves as one of the top — and most electrifying— teams in the Tampa Bay area, under second-year head coach Nick Carroll. Look no further than its balanced, yet potent offense, which is averaging 49 points and nearly 400 total yards per game.
And, Zephyrhills now stands alone at the top of District 8-5A after securing a 38-35 win over River Ridge on Oct. 13 — ending the Knights’ 23-game district win steak that spanned back to 2013.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ toughest remaining game is an Oct. 20 road matchup against Wesley Chapel (6-2 overall), which has won two straight games since the departure of its top player, senior cornerback Isaiah Bolden. (Bolden was dismissed from the team on Oct. 4 due to undisclosed reasons).
Should Zephyrhills win two more contests this season, it will mark the fourth consecutive year the program has won eight games.
Consideration for best team also given to: Gaither Cowboys, Wesley Chapel High Wildcats, Wiregrass Ranch Bulls, Zephyrhills Christian Warriors
Biggest surprise: Gaither High Cowboys (5-2 overall, 4-1 district)
The Cowboys have utilized an explosive running game (280 rushing yards per game, 7.7 yards per carry) and suffocating defense (13 points per game allowed) to become one of the toughest teams to face in The Laker/Lutz News coverage area. Quite a feat, considering the Cowboys entered the season with just five seniors for first-year head coach Kirk Karsen.
Expectations this season were relatively tame, moreover, following the graduations of two Division I talents — linebackers Decalon Brooks and Estefano Feliciano — and top offensive playmaker in TJ Williams. Standout quarterback Gavin Denboer’s offseason transfer to Alonso High School didn’t help the team’s preseason outlook, either.
Though several of Gaither’s wins have come against struggling teams, the Cowboys quieted doubters after a convincing 23-13 win over Wiregrass Ranch on Oct. 6. In that game, the Cowboys rushed for a combined 259 yards, while garnering four sacks and forcing three turnovers.
With three regular season games remaining, the Cowboys look to secure its first winning season since 2014.
Consideration for biggest surprise also given to: Pasco High Pirates
Biggest slide: Sunlake High Seahawks (3-4 overall, 2-1 district)
While Sunlake was expected to be in rebuilding mode this season, it’s still startling to see a losing
record attached to the historically dominant program, under longtime head coach Bill Browning.
The Seahawks have had to mold a new quarterback and several starters, both on defense and at multiple skill positions.
A brutal regular season schedule hasn’t offered many favors, either.
Sunlake’s first three contests were against Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills and Wiregrass Ranch high schools — who have a combined 18-4 overall record.
And, it doesn’t get any easier, with road dates remaining against Mitchell High (7-0 overall) and River Ridge High(4-3 overall).
The Seahawks, meanwhile, will need to win two of its last three games to prevent suffering its first losing season since 2009. From 2010 to 2016, the Seahawks went a combined 60-16.
Disappointing season aside, Seahwawks fans have been able to witness one of the county’s top offensive playmakers, in running back Bryant Beacham. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior is averaging over 100 yards per game to go along with nine rushing touchdowns. He’s also on pace to become the program’s first single-season 1,000-yard rusher since 2014, when then-senior Nathan Johnson tallied 1,088 yards.
Five who’ve shined:
- Charles Harrison III, senior quarterback, Zephyrhills High Bulldogs
The three-year starter is arguably the county’s top signal-caller, tossing 21 touchdowns with just five interceptions, to go with a 62 percent completion rate.
- Jordan Miner, senior cornerback/wide receiver, Wiregrass Ranch High Bulls
The Penn State signee and four-star prospect has lived up to the hype as a jack-of-all-trades, making key contributions on offense (424 yards), defense (25 tackles, two interceptions, seven passes defensed) and special teams (125 return yards).
- Austen Wittish, senior linebacker, Wesley Chapel High Wildcats
The 6-foot, 195-pound inside linebacker ranks among the state’s top tacklers (104 total tackles), to go along with five sacks.
- Darrion Robinson, sophomore wide receiver, Pasco High Pirates
The young 5-foot-11 wideout has quickly developed into one of the county’s most productive receivers, tallying 17 receptions for 412 yards and eight touchdowns.
- Jeromy Reid, junior running back, Gaither High Cowboys
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound tailback is having a breakout campaign, pacing all of District 8-7A with 863 rushing yards (123 yards per game, 9.5 yards per carry) and six touchdowns.Team records:
The Laker/Lutz News coverage area includes the following schools from Hillsborough and Pasco counties:
Carrollwood Day School Patriots (Class 2A-Region 3): (2-3 overall, 1-1 district)
Freedom High School Patriots (Class 7A-Region 8): (2-5 overall, 1-3 district)
Gaither High School Cowboys (Class 7A-Region 8): (5-2 overall, 4-1 district)
Steinbrenner High School Warriors (Class 8A-Region 6): (2-5 overall, 1-3 district)
Wharton High School Wildcats (Class 7A-Region 8): (2-5 overall, 1-3 district)
Academy at the Lakes Wildcats (8-man-Florida Christian Region 2): (5-1 overall, 5-0 district)
Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School Hurricanes (Independent-Sunshine State Athletic Conference (SSAC): (3-4 overall, 2-2 district)
Cypress Creek Middle High School Coyotes (Class 4A-Region 3): (1-6 overall, 0-0 district)
Land O’ Lakes High School Gators (Class 6A-Region 6): (2-4 overall, 0-2 district)
Pasco High School Pirates (Class 6A-Region 6): (4-4 overall, 0-2 district)
Sunlake High School Seahawks (Class 6A-Region 6): (3-4 overall, 2-1 district)
Wesley Chapel High School Wildcats (Class 5A-Region 8): (6-2 overall, 4-1 district)
Wiregrass Ranch High School Bulls (Class 7A-Region 8): (6-1 overall, 3-1 district)
Zephyrhills High School Bulldogs (Class 5A-Region 8): (6-1 overall, 5-0 district)
Zephyrhills Christian Academy Warriors (Class 2A-Region 2): (6-1-1 overall, 0-1 district)
–Stats compiled from Maxpreps.com—
Published Oct. 18, 2017