The Chargers and Cougars will face off at Cougar Path in the Plant City area’s first post-Irma action.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a team in Hillsborough County riding a wave like the Durant Cougars were before Hurricane Irma.
After stunning Jesuit on the road in the 2017 season opener, the Cougars followed up with a 28-14 win over Sickles on Sept. 1 that saw Durant overcome a flag-filled first half to shut the Gryphons down in the second. Though the team hasn’t played since that night — only Irma spent the last two weeks shutting the game down more than the Cincinnati Bengals’ opponents — it’s safe to say expectations are still running high for head coach Mike Gottman’s squad.
Also entering Friday’s game after a win are the Strawberry Crest Chargers, who snapped one of the state’s longest losing streaks Sept. 1 with a 23-6 win at King thanks in large part to Jaquell Narine’s stellar performance: 166 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 21 carries. The death of the 25-game skid even made national news when it happened, getting picked up by USA Today High School Sports.
Crest hopes to play spoiler to Durant’s homecoming game. The Cougars will do everything they can to not let that happen.
Durant showed balance in its scoring output against Sickles. Carlton Potter threw touchdown passes to Agiye Hall and Jory Cole in the first half, and Cameron Myers and David Tabakovic scored rushing touchdowns of their own. Myers was the one who provided the “dagger,” making a 59-yard scamper toward the end zone count in the third quarter to finish up the scoring.
The Cougars know that, after starting the season on such a high note, expectations are as high as they’ve been in some time. But with the offense performing as well as expected and the young defense getting the hang of its varsity reps — the group staved off Jesuit in Tampa and held Sickles to eight completions on 24 attempts — Durant believes it has what it takes to keep winning.
Crest relied heavily on its run game to beat King, totaling 280 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Jarrett Rappe couldn’t find success through the air, completing one of seven pass attempts for 10 yards and throwing two picks, but did pick up 41 yards and a rushing touchdown on 10 carries. The Chargers’ defense kept the Lions off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter, but King could only muster six points then.
Though the Chargers missed out on a district game with Tampa Bay Tech, their return to action won’t be easy.
For both teams, tonight’s game will be a way to shake the rust off in preparation for a shorter week. Durant will go to Newsome on Sept. 28 to start another chapter of the Alafia River Rivalry and Crest will pay Plant City a visit that same evening — one day earlier than that game was originally scheduled, thanks to Irma’s impact on Hillsborough County.