Sports Editor Justin Kline’s football recap column returns with a look at Durant’s preseason game.
Friday night was a return to form for just about everyone in town, including myself.
There’s nothing in high school sports quite like that first real football game of the year. The pre-game buzz is matched or beaten only by the highest-profile matchups (such as this edition’s Game of the Week). The players, coaches and fans (and journalists, too) are shaking off the rust at the same time. And, of course, that first touchdown always gets a big pop from the crowd.
I expected as much when I pulled into Durant High School last week, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, it was almost like everyone was in midseason form. The Cougars played with a lot of heart and urgency, even for a preseason game, and came out on top. The “den” was full and rocking. Players were camera-friendly. The xylophones still played at the weirdest times. The announce team was already getting creative with its wordplay. (Did you know that a large group of ferrets is called a “business?”) And, I have to add, the press box cake was on point.
But, enough about the big picture. Durant did some great things on the field that night, and I definitely have a take on it all.
One thing I noticed right away is this Cougars team has a different energy than last year’s. It’s probably because everyone seems to know their roles much better than they did at this time last year, which is always a huge help for any game plan. But this squad is giving off vibes of self-confidence any coach would love — which is probably why head coach Mike Gottman recently told the Tampa Bay Times that he’s “having a ball” coaching this particular group.
It’s also a good sign for a team when it shows it can make the big play. Brandon Myers’s 92-yard touchdown run? Tune up the band. Adrien Kirkland’s pick six? Sweet chin music. Against a perennially good team such as the Eagles, getting off the big play is a good way to drag morale down and win the mind games.
I don’t want to make it sound like the entire game was that good, as the first half was a bit of a drag: three points between two teams visibly trying to regain a rhythm without much luck. But, hey, that’s preseason football for ‘ya.
The Cougars travel to Hillsborough High, Friday, Aug. 26, for a greater test but, in my eyes, they look like they’re up for it.
Strawberry Crest will get that Brandon team Friday, Aug. 26, which is good news for a Chargers team coming off of a 45-0 beatdown by Malik Davis and the Jesuit Tigers. Contrary to what Crest fans in my Twitter mentions were complaining about, this is not a sign of Crest’s “loosing” ways getting worse: Jesuit is a powerhouse and Davis is a beast. The game doesn’t appear to be an indicator of anything for Crest, other than it’s definitely not ready to compete with elite programs yet.
Brandon started Harry Kanu at quarterback in the first half and switched to Barry Wyche in the second Friday, Aug. 19. Neither took varsity snaps in 2015, and neither looked particularly good last Friday. Wyche did get Brandon on the scoreboard, but that’s pretty much where the notable achievements end. These are clearly two kids in need of development, and both have at least one more season left after this year.
I’m expecting Crest to have a much easier time with Brandon than it did with Jesuit, but it still won’t be an “easy” game.
Lastly, that Manatee upset of Armwood game gets a big ol’ “eyeballs emoji” from me, as Armwood is set to visit 1 Raider Place Friday, Aug. 26, and you’re either crazy or lying to yourself if you think the Plant City players didn’t notice that game too. If you want to hear my take on that game, and what it could mean, you’ll have to go online and listen to yesterday’s Gridiron Report podcast on PlantCityObserver.com.