NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM: Josh Hicks, senior, RB
Last year was a bizarre one for Hicks.
He twisted his ankle during the season opener against Riverview. When he came back, he offered to move to defensive back to help a defense that lost eight starters from 2011's state final four team.
This season, however, the Rutgers-bound Hicks will look to flash the form more similar to his breakthrough sophomore year, when he tallied 1,301 rushing yards and ran for 12 touchdowns.
The Tigers are looking for it. They lost three Division I receivers from last year in E.J. Burston, Cory Crawford and Shaq Harris and could have a new man under center in quarterback Jack Allison.
A big year from Hicks would take some of the pressure off Palmetto's fresher faces while allowing the new-look passing game to gel.
While the Tigers still want to run a balanced offense, said coach Dave Marino, a big year by Hicks could result in big things for Palmetto.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Jack Allison, soph., QB
A junior varsity player until he received a late-season call-up last year, Allison impressed coaches in the spring and summer with not only his arm strength and cool in the pocket, but with how quickly he picked up on the Tigers' offense. Allison could unseat Chris Tuten, who took over last year after starter Spencer Atkins got hurt. Marino said each will get equal reps against Riverview in the Kickoff Classic.
DEEP AT: Linebacker, defensive back
Competition is high at those positions, said Marino, with 12 guys duking it out for eight spots in the starting lineup. Hicks will see time at free safety for the Tigers, who return nine starters on defense.
THIN AT: Lines
There isn't much experience or depth on either side of the ball for the Tigers, so Marino is shuffling players around. Donnell Ward, a starting fullback last season, is moving to guard. "We're just hoping the younger guys ... can step up and fill the voids," Marino said.
HERALD'S FORECAST: 8-2, playoff berth
It's never a bad thing when most of your returning starters play defense, though Palmetto will need to solidify its line play while hoping its new-look passing game gels. If those pieces fall into place, the Tigers should find themselves in the playoffs for a fourth straight year and should head there with their second district championship in three years.
Dave Marino, 4th season, 27-10
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Home games Palmetto has in September.
9: Games the Tigers play on Friday. They head to Clearwater Countryside on Thursday, Sept. 12th.
3: Years Palmetto has made the playoffs in three seasons under head coach Dave Marino.
Aug. 30 VENICE
Sept. 6 at St. Petersburg Lakewood
Sept. 12 at Clearwater Countryside#
Sept. 20 at North Port*
Sept. 27 BAYSHORE
Oct. 11 MANATEE
Oct. 18 at Lakewood Ranch*
Oct. 25 SARASOTA*
Nov. 1 BRADEN RIVER*
Nov. 8 at Southeast
Games start at 7:30 p.m., unless noted
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
*--Class 7A-District 10 game
GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 18 vs. Lakewood Ranch
The county rivals are district foes again, and this matchup could go a long way toward crowing a champion in Class 7A-District 10.
at Riverview W, 24-13
SARASOTA W, 47-28
BRADEN RIVER W, 40-0
ARCADIA DESOTO W, 9-7
at Lakewood Ranch W, 43-7
at Bayshore W, 48-7
at Wauchula Hardee W, 42-0
at Manatee L, 62-0
at Southeast L, 31-17
OCALA TRINITY CATH. W, 27-7
CLASS 5A-REGION PLAYOFFS
at Auburndale W, 29-7
at Lake Wales L, 17-14