Who’s ready for some football?
Right now, Plant City-area high schools are getting ready. It won’t be long before the fields are prepped, the lights come on and the girls walk out, ready to sling that pigskin and put some points on the board. The outlook for all three teams is good — in fact, maybe even better than last season’s.
What’s worth keeping an eye on in the upcoming 2015 season? Fans of Durant, Plant City and Strawberry Crest schools will each have something to look forward to.
Last season, the Lady Cougars were almost unstoppable. The team finished with an 11-1 record and had several players, such as quarterback Jessica McClernan and pass rusher Chrissy Millard, put their names in the Durant record books with impeccable season performances. The team’s only loss was to Bloomingdale, 6-0, in the district championship game.
There have been some big changes in the program, however.
Most notably, seven-year head coach Brad Brunson stepped down from the job and has been replaced by longtime assistant Randy Crone. Crone, who has been with the team for the past seven years, inherits a talented roster and a big task.
Replacing McClernan will be no easy feat. The four-year starter graduated in 2014 as the best flag football quarterback in school history. Megan Mooney will be filling her shoes. Moooney started — and won — two games last year when McClernan sat out with an injury.
Mooney will also have some good help. Her top two targets will be senior receivers Ashley Piechowiak and Kayla Collins, who are both captains, and Hailey Lang.
Crone has high expectations for the defense, anchored by junior linebacker Giavanna Fullwood, and also expects big things from lacrosse players Ally Louden and Casey Decatur.
“Our team has a good balance of experienced seniors and new talent,” he says. “I expect a very competitive team, as well.”
Whether Durant can repeat last year’s success remains to be seen, but it appears that the pieces are there.
The Lady Raiders had to deal with several big changes last year, losing their star quarterback and bringing in a new head coach. The team posted a 5-5 record, which did include a three-game win streak near the end of the season, but took a 32-0 loss to Armwood in the first round of the district tournament.
Things do look clearer this season. Boys football assistant coach Greg Meyer is returning as the team’s head coach, and he says he knows how to improve upon last season’s performance.
“It’s just adapting the offenses I’m used to to the girls’ abilities,” Meyer says. “We’ll have a more balanced attack this year.”
A big part of that is that the majority of the offensive starters are returning. The senior-heavy offense includes wideout/free safety Samantha Black and WR/QB Kellen Morris, whom Meyer expects big things from in 2015. Also, every member of the defensive backfield is returning.
What he’s most excited about is the return of talented quarterback Avery Brown. Brown, who last played for the flag football team in 2013, took last year off to focus on softball. Now that she’s returning, Meyer hopes she’ll help take the team to new heights with her dual-threat skills.
With those girls, plus athletes like Sharice Morales and Drew Knotts on board, Meyer believes that this squad has what it takes to walk the walk.
“This could be one of the best teams PCHS has fielded, talent-wise,” he says. “We have a lot of experience in crucial spots.”
The Lady Chargers won’t be dealing with big changes like Durant and Plant City, but that may be a good thing.
Head coach Andre Lewis’s team posted a 6-4 record last season, but there were several great signs for the future. One of them came on April 17, when Crest went to Plant City and picked up an 18-0 win — the first over the Lady Raiders in program history. The girls also picked up a 26-23 win over a tough East Bay High team the following week.
And, in the district tournament, Crest nearly beat King to advance to the second round. The Lady Lions got the better of the Lady Chargers in a gritty, 13-7 victory.
This year, the team will have several key players returning in senior Marviana Mackey, sophomore Jordan Snapp and junior Amanda DaSilva. But, for the most part, this team is relatively young. Lewis says that the team plans to make up for whatever it may lack in experience with a strong work ethic.
“We will be young, but competitive,” he says.
With games against Plant City, Armwood, King and Bloomingdale on the schedule, the Lady Chargers will have their work cut out for them in 2015. But, if the team’s as competitive as Lewis claims it is, then these girls could turn some heads in the district come tournament time.
Contact Justin Kline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Durant will get things started next Friday, March 6, playing in a tournament hosted by Celebration High. After that, they and their Plant City-area counterparts will have just over a week to prepare for the regular season. If you need to be there for the home openers, here’s what you need to know:
Durant: at Plant City, 3/17; vs. Jefferson, 3/20.
Strawberry Crest: vs. Plant City, 3/23.
All games start at 7:30 p.m. For full schedules, visit c2cschools.com and search for your school of choice.