Sports Editor Justin Kline builds a “fantasy team” with 2019’s top players.
QB: Makenzie Kennedy, Plant City
Makenzie Kennedy’s lone season as the Raiders’ starting quarterback saw the senior complete 52 percent of his pass attempts for 1,549 yards and 16 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. But Kennedy brought a new wrinkle to the Plant City offense: though predecessor Braxton Plunk had no fear of using his legs to make a play, Kennedy thrived on the run and contributed 420 rushing yards and seven touchdowns while giving defenses one more thing to worry about.
RB1: Zamir’ Knighten, Plant City
Zamir’ Knighten was once again the most productive running back in the Plant City area, having finished his final high school season with 816 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 102 carries for the Raiders. He also carved up Jesuit’s defense to the tune of 143 yards and a touchdown in the season opener, including an 81-yard run that sent Raider Nation into a frenzy.
RB2: L.J. Gappy, Durant
L.J. Gappy and Eli Reed had very similar season outputs — both finished with 556 yards and six touchdowns — so to pick one for the RB2 spot is like splitting hairs. And what separates Gappy here in the backfield is his efficiency: he racked up that many yards on fewer touches (76 versus 99) and had two more 100-yard outings (three versus one).
WR1: Mario Williams, Plant City
The No. 1 wide receiver in America saw his stats dip a bit in 2019 as the Raiders underwent a quarterback change, but he was still the engine that made Plant City go. He started the season with 169 yards and three touchdowns against Jesuit and also shined in Plant City’s thriller against Bloomingdale, when he turned three catches into 151 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.
WR2: Reagan Ealy, Plant City
If Mario Williams wasn’t open when the ball needed to leave Makenzie Kennedy’s hand, Reagan Ealy was. The Raiders’ WR2 caught 32 passes for 431 yards and four touchdowns, proving himself to be a reliable safety valve in his junior season. The Williams-Ealy one-two punch was the most effective in the Plant City area in 2019.
FLEX: Eli Reed, Durant
I couldn’t have L.J. Gappy in this list and ignore a fine season from Eli Reed, Durant’s fullback. You could switch their positions in this list and it wouldn’t bother me at all. Reed gets a nod here not only for his success running the ball, but also for his flex value as a receiver. In fact, Reed was the Cougars’ leading receiver in the flexbone-heavy offense, bringing in seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown.
For me, this was another toss-up. I can see the case you could make for either Durant or Plant City here and I’ll respect your opinion either way. I’m picking the Cougars’ o-line here for now, though. Durant had a ton of players run the ball in 2019 — 15 of them, to be exact — and its commitment to the flexbone led to the Cougars almost exclusively calling running plays. So I compared both schools’ top five rushing leaders in total carries and yards and found that while Plant City did average one more full yard per carry, the Cougars turned 80 more runs into 243 more yards on the season. Durant also finished with 22 rushing touchdowns to Plant City’s 21.
K: Chris Rodriguez, Plant City
Chris Rodriguez finishes for the second year in a row as the area’s most successful kicker. Rodriguez connected on six of his eight field goal attempts and 38 of 40 PAT attempts, which created 56 points for the season — good for second-most among all Raiders. And to be perfectly fair to Rodriguez, you can’t count the two unsuccessful field goal attempts as misses because both were blocked by the Armwood and Bloomingdale defenses, respectively.
DB1: Antron Robinson, Plant City
For the last two seasons, Plant City could always count on Antron Robinson’s consistency in the secondary. Robinson served as a team captain in his senior season and didn’t disappoint: he finished 2019 with a team and career-high) 79 total tackles (8.8 per game), led all Raiders with five passes defensed and tied for a team-high two forced fumbles.
DB2: Latarus Wanser, Plant City
Latarus Wanser got one year with the Raiders and made it count. The Hillsborough transfer finished 2019 with 56 total tackles, tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles, blocked a field goal in Plant City’s 42-6 win over East Bay and snagged two interceptions, one of which he returned 35 yards for a touchdown in a 49-13 win over Kathleen.
DB3: Lenny Woods, Durant
Lenny Woods’ junior season at Durant was a good one and he proved to be a reliable presence for the Cougars. He led the team with five passes defensed and also chipped in with 33 total tackles, an interception against Riverview, a forced fumble against Lakeland and a blocked field goal in the win over Kathleen.
LB1: Tanner Gibbs, Plant City
Plant City’s tradition of good linebacker play continued in 2019 and Tanner Gibbs is proof of that. Gibbs’ 69 total tackles didn’t lead the team in 2019, but the senior practically lived in the offensive backfield and racked up 13.5 tackles for loss (3.5 sacks) on the season. He also forced two fumbles and scooped up one loose ball last season.
LB2: Joshua Cannon, Durant
Durant turned to Joshua Cannon to be a positive force in the locker room and on the field in 2019, and the then-junior delivered. Cannon led all Cougars with 75 total tackles (and assisted on a team-high 39 tackles) and recovered a fumble against Blake in a 27-6 win.
LB3: Keyshawn Green, Plant City
Keyshawn Green split time at linebacker and defensive end for the Raiders in 2019 and made his presence felt. Green finished 2019 with 49 tackles (11 for loss) and 4.5 sacks, defensed three passes, scooped up two fumbles and forced one, picked off a pass against Kathleen and blocked a punt against Bloomingdale.
DL: Plant City
The Raiders’ defensive line had little problem generating pressure and getting to the quarterback last season, helping the team finish with 21 sacks (2.1 per game). The star of the show was Emmanuel Baez, who had an excellent senior year. Baez led all Raiders with 79 total tackles, 7.5 sacks for a loss of 66 yards, three forced fumbles, two passes defensed and one blocked field goal against Lakeland.