Sports Editor Justin Kline builds a “fantasy team” with 2017’s top players.
QB: Braxton Plunk, Plant City
I don’t think many, if any, Hillsborough County football players got more out of a change of scenery than Braxton Plunk. After transferring from Strawberry Crest to Plant City, Plunk took a massive leap forward developing under coach James Booth. Over half of his pass attempts were completions and he racked up 2,126 yards (212.6 per game) and 20 touchdowns against nine interceptions. This is the area’s most improved player, hands down.
RB1: Cameron Myers, Durant
No one player was more important to their team in 2017 than Cameron Myers was for the Durant Cougars. Myers put together a stellar senior season, picking up 1,738 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground as the lead back in the Cougars’ run-heavy offense. Though Myers would still have had a great year without the Redman Cup game, he gained 393 rushing yards and scored four times on Plant City’s defense.
RB2: Eric Wilson, Plant City
Like Plunk and Mario Williams, Eric Wilson was a Plant City newcomer who thrived in 2017. The sophomore running back led the Raiders with 648 rushing yards and six touchdowns last season, really coming into his own around the middle of the season. Most notably, he scored all three of Plant City’s touchdowns against Tampa Bay Tech and picked up 144 yards in the Redman Cup game. Wilson was also a member of the 4x100 relay team that made it to the 2017-18 FHSAA state track and field championships last season.
WR1: Demario Williams, Plant City
Demario Williams certainly earned his “Super Mario” nickname as a freshman. The multi-sport athlete caught a team-leading 10 touchdown passes in 2017, coupled with 703 receiving yards, and became Plant City’s top playmaker thanks to his turf-burning speed. Williams can also be found speeding along the basepaths for Plant City’s baseball team.
WR2: Tyler Hood, Plant City
Tyler Hood was also a reliable presence for Braxton Plunk and the Plant City offense in 2017, leading the Raiders with a career-best 734 yards. It was a big step up from his junior season with Plant City, in which he gained 297 yards in seven games. Hood’s performance netted him first team all-county honors and a spot in the East/West All-Star Game.
FLEX: David Tabakovic, Durant
Durant’s rushing attack was led by Myers, but the Cougars’ rumbling Russian enjoyed a great year of his own. Fullback David Tabakovic was the thunder to Myers’ lightning, plowing through defenders to the tune of 660 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tabakovic eclipsed 100 yards twice last year and finished with 98 yards on seven carries against Lennard, but his season highlight was the 137-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Redman Cup game.
If you’re going to run the ball as much as Durant does, your offensive line had better be good. As area fans got to see last season, the Cougars’ o-line (literally) paved the way for one of the deadliest rushing attacks in Hillsborough County to pick up eight yards per carry and score 32 touchdowns. The line also kept senior quarterback Carlton Potter healthy for all 10 games. In short, another excellent coaching job by Wesley Wyatt.
K: Kelly Kash, Durant
Durant found itself in the end zone quite often in 2017 and kicker Kelly Kash was money when her number was called for a PAT. Kash made 33 of 35 extra point attempts over eight games and was generally the most consistent kicker in the Cougars’ rotation.
DB1: Demarcus Governor, Durant
If you need to lock down somebody’s top wideout, Demarcus Governor is your man. Durant’s best cornerback led the Cougars in passes defended in 2017 and also logged 29 tackles and an interception. He’ll be back with the Cougars for his senior season to bring experience and leadership to the defense.
DB2: Tyreke Harrison, Plant City
One of the most athletic players on Plant City’s roster, Tyreke Harrison, showed in 2017 he can be both a reliable defensive back and a threat on offense and as the team’s return man. Harrison’s track-tested speed (he was also on the 4x100 relay team) makes him someone teams have to keep an eye on no matter how he ends up with the ball in his hands.
DB3: C.J. Barnes, Durant
As well-rounded as any defensive back in the area, Corey “C.J.” Barnes was credited with 61 total tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in his sophomore season. The rising junior likes to play hard and fast and should be one of Durant’s most important contributors in 2018 and 2019.
DB4: Rio Oliver, Strawberry Crest
Rio Oliver’s last season of high school ball was spent at defensive back and wide receiver, but it was at DB where the tall senior really made his mark. Oliver came up with 29 tackles, three picks and eight passes defended in 2017 and, when he did come up with the ball, he made the most of it: two of his interceptions were returned for 60 yards or more. Oliver also played for the Chargers’ basketball team last year and appeared in 23 games.
LB1: D.J. Gordon IV, Plant City
The Raiders have one more year with arguably the best football player in the Plant City area. D.J. Gordon IV consistently gave offenses headaches in 2017 and parlayed his skills into a three-star rating and a commitment to play for coach P.J. Fleck at Minnesota. He’s an athletic, smart linebacker who does justice to Plant City’s reputation as a linebacker factory.
LB2: Bryar Christian, Durant
Bryar Christian, Durant’s leading tackler of 2017 (86 total), stepped up big time for the Cougars. Christian picked up 3.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in his senior season, both team-leading stats, and also led all front seven players with three passes defended. Christian is also known for his time on the baseball field, where he played first base, outfield and pitcher for Durant’s varsity team over three seasons.
LB3: Aaron Novo, Durant
Aaron Novo played a key role in Durant’s front seven in 2017, racking up 83 total tackles, two sacks and eight tackles for loss. Novo led the Cougars with 9.2 tackles per game and most notably recorded 20 total (11 solo, nine assists) in the Nov. 3, 2017 season closer against Armwood.
LB4: Thomas Steed, Strawberry Crest
The leader of Strawberry Crest’s linebacking corps in 2017, Thomas Steed’s high football IQ and motor were put to good use in his senior season. Steed finished the season with 87 total tackles — a whopping 70 of which were assists — and an interception. He was one of the team’s bright spots on defense all year and always seemed to be around the ball.
The Cougars were able to control many of their games by winning in the trenches on either side of the ball. The D-line consistently put pressure on quarterbacks and helped linebackers like Christian and Novo thrive.