ALL-TAMPA BAY TEAM
FROM 2006 TO 2011, THE TAMPA BAY REGION was on a roll. During that time, Plant won four state titles, Jefferson and Armwood won one each and Armwood, Plant, Admiral Farragut and Tampa
Catholic (twice) finished as state runners-up.
But since that run – the greatest in the area’s history – the
titles have dried up. The region did not produce a finalist in
2012, went 0-2 in state finals in 2013 – being outscored
86-14 – and suffered two more state championship game
losses last year as Indian Rocks Christian and Armwood fell.
Does that change this year? Can Tampa Bay get back to
its title-winning ways? If it does, it will be a surprise, though
a number of Tampa Bay teams have a chance. Indian Rocks
Christian returns enough players that the idea of a repeat
performance is not at all far-fetched, Jefferson has reloaded
and a sleeper like Sickles, Tampa Catholic or Clearwater
Central Catholic could possibly slip through. But as usual, the
title hopes probably rest on the two teams that have been
the region’s best for the last decade – Plant and Armwood.
NEW NAMES, NEW RESULTS?
Despite losing the No. 1 recruit in the country in Byron
Cowart and a half-dozen other stars that moved on, can
Armwood make a third straight final appearance? Maybe the
question should be: Is it smart to bet against the Hawks?
“We’ll have a young team with a lot of new names that you
won’t recognize at first,” said coach Sean Callahan. “But we
will be competitive again. Those players that left had pretty
good players behind them.”
Players like sophomore running back Brian Snead, who
already has an offer from Florida and some other big-time
colleges; athletic junior quarterback Darian McNeal; and
lineman Kevin Richardson, who heads up a talented group
of blockers. Defensively, the Hawks have to replenish their
destructive line, but are solid otherwise.
Armwood still plays in a friendly district that will provide a
path to the postseason. It will probably be the game against
Plant, the other best bet to make some postseason noise this
season, that tells us just how high, or how far, the Hawks will fly.
Nate Craig and Bentlee Sanders aren’t offseason pick-ups
for Tampa Catholic, though it probably feels like it for coach
Last season, Sanders hurt his leg in the preseason game
and a week later Craig, who had been declared the No. 1 wide
receiver recruit in the country by a few recruiting analysts, hurt
his ankle in the season opener. Their injuries caused both players to miss the entire season, but they are back and healthy.
In their absence last year, sophomore Devan Barrett, now
one of Tampa Bay’s top recruits, stepped in and led the team in
rushing, and sophomore Darius Corbett led the team in receiving. With quarterback Kevin Knox running it, the Tampa Catholic
offense could be one of the most explosive in the area.
The loss of several key players like Auburn’s Ryan Davis
and FSU’s George Campbell has left Pinellas County without
a clear-cut favorite this season.
But East Lake continues to be the team everyone is shoot-
ing for. Though the Eagles have big questions at quarterback,
they return a solid backfield and receivers, the lines are good
and the defense should be stout.
Rival Countryside may have something to say about that,
however. Trent Chmelik is a three-year starter at quarterback,
Kee Whetzel is a multi-dimensional offensive weapon and the
offensive line and defense are expected to be very good.
The Cougars may be the most experienced team in the
county entering 2015, though squads at St. Petersburg,
Indian Rocks Christian, Pinellas Park and Largo could still
have a say in the Pinellas pecking order. – John Cotey
TAMPA BAY REGION
Tampa Bay Catholic running
back Devan Barrett led
the team in rushing as a
QB Chris Oladokun, Sickles
RB Malik Davis, Jesuit
RB Devan Barrett, Tampa Catholic
WR Nate Craig-Myers, Tampa Catholic
WR Daquon Green, Tampa Bay Tech
TE Jacob Mathis, Berkeley Prep
OL Julian Santos, East Lake
OL Brandon Walton, Seminole
OL Dillan Gibbons, St Pete Catholic
OL Jean Marcellus, Tampa Jefferson
OL Sean Behrens, Newsome
UT C. J. Cotman, Clearwater Central Catholic
DL Kane Taylor, Dunedin
DL Keldric Preston, Robinson
DL Bo Peek, Berkeley Prep
DL Tre McKitty, Tampa Catholic
LB Jake Hampton, Sickles
LB DeCarlon Brooks, Gaither
LB Thomas Allen, Plant
DB Craig Watts, Admiral Farragut
DB K.J. Sails, East Bay
DB Juwan Burgess, Blake
DB Brandon Drayton, Largo
UT Trey Fulwood, Sickles
3. East Lake