Warmup games insightful
As predictors of the prep season, the pre-season clashes do indicate some strengths but also some weaknesses.
By ROD GIPSON
Published August 25, 2006
CARROLLWOOD - So did one preseason game really tell us anything about the 2006 prep football season?
Yes and no. While teams like Jefferson and Wharton again appear poised for the kickoff of the season, squads like Sickles and Leto surprised with quality performances.
Still, most coaches are reserved at the thought of one game being all-telling about their teams.
"We have a good group of kids," said Gaither coach Mark Kantor, whose team lost to Plant 34-17 in preseason play last Friday. "They've been working hard and we'll just have to see what we have when the games start."
That's true, but teams did use the warmup games to see what they have. Jefferson quarterback Stephen Garcia picked up where he left off last year, throwing for 250-plus yards in his team's 38-20 win.
Sickles coach Pat O'Brien successfully unveiled his new offense with great results. The Gryphons ran for 273 yards as a team and may have found a "go-to" runner in Josh Mendez.
Also, Wharton's defense was outstanding in a thumping of traditionally strong Jesuit, and Leto may have developed a potent rushing game using a running-back-by-committee approach.
The season begins tonight with all local teams in action except for Alonso, which plays its first game next week. All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
CHAMBERLAIN at BRANDON
Last Week: Chamberlain lost to Armwood 24-12; Brandon beat Freedom 24-21.
Last Year: Chamberlain beat Brandon 19-9.
The Skinny: Don't count out Chamberlain and coach Billy Turner based on a preseason loss to mighty Armwood. The Chiefs will have more up their sleeve tonight.
The Edge: Although Brandon's offense showed plenty of other options during its exhibition win, the Eagles are without star tailback Mike Brown (suspension) for at least this game. That should aid the Chamberlain defensive effort.
WHARTON at FREEDOM
Last Week: Wharton beat Jesuit 20-6; Freedom lost to Brandon 24-21.
Last Year: Freedom beat Wharton 24-14.
The Skinny: Wharton looked dominant in its warmup game, trouncing Jesuit with an outstanding defense effort that forced five turnovers.
Freedom, meanwhile, is looking for the same inspired effort that helped the Patriots upset Wharton during last season's opener.
The Edge: Freedom, while a surprise team a season ago, may face a tougher road this season - starting tonight.
SICKLES at GAITHER
Last Week: Sickles lost to Mitchell 20-16; Gaither lost to Plant 34-17.
Last Year: Gaither beat Sickles 21-0.
The Skinny: Sickles appears to have put together a rushing attack, rolling up almost 300 yards on the ground last week. Gaither, on the other hand, didn't play well on defense and watched its offense struggle.
The Edge: This may be Sickles' best shot at beating Gaither in a few years. The Gryphons last topped Sickles in 2003.
MIDDLETON at JEFFERSON
Last Week: Middleton lost to Alonso 6-3; Jefferson beat Riverview 38-20.
Last Year: Jefferson beat Middleton 28-20.
The Skinny: Jefferson quarterback Stephen Garcia already is in mid season form, tossing three scoring passes in the Dragons' preseason contest.
The Edge: Jefferson's aggressive defense, and potent passing offense, is not a good combination for a Middleton team coming off a three-point effort last week.
EAST BAY at LETO
Last Week: East Bay lost to Sarasota Booker 33-10; Leto beat Tampa Bay Tech 14-8.
Last Year: East Bay beat Leto 35-0.
The Skinny: Is Leto ready to turn the corner? Probably not just yet, but new coach Hugh Dehnert has found some players. The Falcons' rushing attack used eight different ball carriers last week while rolling up big numbers on the ground.
The Edge: Now the Falcons just have to put forth the same effort on defense. East Bay may be the perfect squad to do that against.