New kids on the block

Published August 25, 2006

TAMPA - Three new schools will field teams this season, albeit with a slightly modified schedule from the rest of the county.

Lennard High in Ruskin and Spoto High in Riverview are new public schools opening their doors for the first time this fall, and Carrollwood Day School Prep, which is an extension of Carollwood Day School, an elementary and middle school in existence since the 1980s, will offer ninth- and 10-grade classes in its first year.

Lennard and Spoto, nicknamed the Longhorns and Spartans, respectively, likely will experience growing pains in their first year of action as they suit up young, inexperienced teams.

"We started with about 10 kids and, at the peak of our summer conditioning program, we had around 35," Spoto coach Scott Palmer said. "Most of the kids I'll coach are freshmen and sophomores with a couple juniors thrown in."

The two schools will play a seven-game junior varsity schedule and two varsity games against each other.

Both schools, according to Florida High School Athletic Association bylaws, will be ineligible for postseason play in their first season.

Carrollwood Day School Prep, nicknamed the Falcons, will play six-man football in a league consisting of six teams.

The teams will play 10 games - five home, five away - and the top four teams at the end of the season will compete in a playoff to determine a champion.

Tom Stoup, principal and head football coach at Carrollwood Day School Prep, said the school will continue with six-man club football until at least the 2008 season.

"By the time our sophomores now are seniors, we will explore whether or not to field an 11-man A-side team," Stoup said. "We couldn't have started a football program without six-man football. It's a great way to get our program started because of our limited numbers."

Stoup has just ninth- and 10-graders to work with and 16 players total. Four of the 16 are eighth-graders.

"We're going to feature a lot of young kids and some kids who may have never played before," Stoup said. "But the other teams are having the same issues. Mistakes and penalties are probably going to determine the outcome of a lot of the games.

"We'd like to be competitive, and I think we will be. I'd be surprised if we weren't in the semifinals of the playoffs at the end of the season."