The Raiders, the only area team opening the 2020 season at home, will host the Sharks Friday night and finally get a feel for the in-game product.
At long last, the Plant City Raiders and the rest of the area’s football teams are about to play again.
This week kicks off the 2020 season in what would normally have been Week 3 had there not been a pandemic and, if you didn’t already know, we’re jumping right into the regular season this time around.
Head coach James Booth said Tuesday that senior Nick Felice has earned the starting job at quarterback heading in to Week 1. Felice transferred from Newsome to Plant City before COVID-19 hit and has spent his time at 1 Raider Place learning a completely different offense than he was used to with the Wolves. Felice started for the Wolves last year and completed 52 of 115 pass attempts for 844 yards and 10 touchdowns against five interceptions through 11 games (including playoffs). Newsome’s offense was built around the run, which led to 3,402 yards and 41 touchdowns on the ground, so Plant City’s pass-friendly attack almost couldn’t be more different. Booth said Felice has gotten a good grasp of the offense, and it definitely helps that the senior is surrounded by talent at wide receiver — besides superstar Mario Williams, the reliable Reagan Ealy came back for his senior season and three-star recruit Aramoni Rhone (who transferred from Orlando-Jones) is yet another weapon for Felice to throw to this year.
Plant City has also been big on junior running back Romello Jones, who flashed playmaking ability in limited action backing up incumbent starter Zamir’ Knighten last year and brings “home run” speed to the offensive backfield this year. With four of Riverview’s top five tacklers of 2019 now gone due to either graduation or transfer, the new-look PCHS offense may be tough to stop once it gets going.
Last year, Riverview posted an 8-3 (3-2 district) record and made the playoffs, where the Sharks lost in the first round to Kissimmee-Osceola, 58-21.
Of that team’s three most productive offensive players, only senior wide receiver Kadeem Robinson (371 yards, four touchdowns) is still on the roster. Dual-threat quarterback Stazion Gage, who also led the team in rushing with 736 yards and 10 touchdowns, transferred to Bloomingdale along with top safety Isaiah Doby (103 total tackles, one fumble recovery, one interception, four passes defensed). Second-leading rusher Cheyenne Greaves (755 yards, six touchdowns) graduated along with quarterbacks Devin White and Colby Thornton. On defense, the Sharks also lost sack machine James Moore (11 sacks, 88 total tackles, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries) to Leto High School and stalwarts James Marshall and Antonio Brown (93 and 86 total tackles, respectively) to graduation.
With home field advantage (even if the stands are a little less full than they usually are) and experience returning to key areas, Plant City looks to be in position to start the season on a high note.
Here’s a reminder for Raider Nation and all other high school football fans out there: you’ll only be able to go to the games if you’ve been invited, but there are other ways to watch. You can watch any game anytime, live or otherwise, at NFHSNetwork.com with a subscription. Raider fans can also catch every football game at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, 2418 James L. Redman Parkway, on Friday nights.
Also, if you’re using the 2020 Football Preview to keep track of Plant City’s schedule, go ahead and grab a Sharpie now. The Dreadnaughts were forced by Polk County Public Schools late Tuesday afternoon (after press time for the Football Preview) to cancel their first two games of the season and also put practices on hold due to COVID-19. That means they’re no longer playing Plant City on Sept. 18.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
@ Newsome, 7:30 p.m.
The Alafia River Rivalry opens the 2020 season for Newsome and Durant, and this year’s game will test the Cougars on the road.
Both teams are working with new quarterbacks this year and Durant’s man under center will be Marcus Miguele. Miguele only saw limited action last year behind senior Sean Williams, but the coaches see plenty to like from the junior as he brings dual-threat potential to the offense. This game will see the debut of Durant’s updated offense, no longer reliant on the flexbone formation and more eager to test Miguele’s arm.
Though Newsome won’t have the experience of Nick Felice under center anymore, the important thing to note is Durant and other defenses still have to worry about that rushing attack led by Jason Albritton. In his sophomore season, Albritton torched defenses to the tune of 1,456 yards and 14 of the team’s 41 total rushing touchdowns. Losing Landon White (746 yards, 11 touchdowns) to graduation may hurt, but the Wolves haven’t had a problem spreading the carries around.
@ King, 7:30 p.m.
Strawberry Crest has something to prove in 2020 and hopes to start the season with a little bit of revenge on King.
Last year, the Lions picked up their first win of the season (and handed the Chargers their first loss) at King in Week 2 with a 37-21 final score. The Chargers and Lions are now 3-3 all-time against each other, as the Lions’ win snapped Crest’s two-game hot streak since 2017.
The Chargers are committing to the run in 2020, but the question of who will step up to light up the scoreboard in key areas is one head coach Phillip Prior said will be answered on a week-to-week basis in the games. Crest is fielding a young, largely inexperienced team, but the defense is not lacking in the area of senior leadership.
The last two King-Crest games have been competitive, so fans can expect more of that this Friday night.