NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM | Offensive line
The Tigers have a Division I-bound quarterback in Jack Allison and a number of sure-handed receivers to catch everything he throws.
But after watching Palmetto's offense struggle to move the ball against a bigger East Lake team during the first round of last year's Class 7A playoffs, coach Dave Marino knows how much hinges on the guys up front. Whether they are giving Allison time or creating holes for running backs, Palmetto's linemen will go a long way toward dictating how successful the Tigers are at stockpiling points.
Consequently, the coach and team are banking a lot on returning linemen Brandon Gaitanis, Donnelle Ward, Tristen Szabo and Kyle O'Halloran, all of whom are seniors.
"They all played and started last year, and they really got to protect Jack. That's the key," Marino said. "There's no doubt that we feel good about this ability to throw the ball, the receivers' catching the ball. But it starts up front. If they could step up and develop that confidence and leadership and control the line of scrimmage, then we feel real good about what we can do offensively."
After losing to East Lake last year, Marino mentioned how Palmetto, especially up front, needed to get bigger if the Tigers wanted to make any noise in the Class 7A playoffs.
He is pleased with how they've responded.
"They didn't get much taller, but they've definitely gotten bigger and stronger," Marino said. "They really worked hard. That's the question mark, but that's also the area where we feel if those guys step up and take a step forward, we'll be OK."
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: Brandon Luckett, jr., WR; Deanthony Warrick, sr., WR
The pair of transfers -- Luckett from Lakewood Ranch, Warrick from Southeast -- add more depth to the Tigers' pool of receivers while giving Allison more options. Luckett had one catch for the Mustangs, while Warrick had 16 receptions and scored three times for the Noles.
"I think those two guys are really going to add another dimension of speed and athleticism to our offensive weaponry," Marino said.
DEEP AT: WR
Luckett and Warrick join a core that returns Simon Williams (19 catches) and Dearius Washington (13 catches) from last season. Marino also is excited about Michael Hillery, who was ineligible last season.
THIN AT: DB
Zaon Williams is the only returning cornerback for Palmetto this fall, but Marino hopes a defensive line that returns four can take some pressure off the new guys in the back seven.
HERALD's FORECAST: 8-2, playoff berth
The Tigers return a lot of experience in the trenches on both sides of the ball and should boast an explosive offense, a recipe which will result in a fifth straight postseason appearance. Class 7A is rugged, so winning the district and earning at least one playoff game at home will be crucial if the Tigers hope to get further than last year.
Dave Marino, fifth season, 32-16
BY THE NUMBERS:
0: Times Palmetto has missed the playoff since Marino took over in 2010.
15: Touchdowns thrown by QB Jack Allison last season in Palmetto's final nine games.
13: Season-low points scored by Tarpon Springs East Lake, a Class 7A state semifinalist, against Palmetto during last year's Region 3 quarterfinal.
29 at Venice
5 ST. PETE LAKEWOOD
12 CLEARWATER COUNTRYSIDE
19 NORTH PORT*
26 at Bayshore
10 at Manatee
17 LAKEWOOD RANCH*
24 at Sarasota*
31 at Braden River*
All games start at 7:30 p.m.
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
*--Class 7A-District 10 game
GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 31 vs. Braden River
A playoff berth was on the line when these emerging rivals met during last season's district finale, and the stakes shouldn't be much different in what will be a tight Class 7A-District 10 race.
5-6, 3-1 7A-10
VENICE L, 32-7
at St. Pete Lakewoood L, 20-13
at Clearwater Countryside W, 27-0
at North Port W, 56-12
BAYSHORE W, 41-38
MANATEE L, 35-14
at Lakewood Ranch W, 33-19
SARASOTA L, 26-22
BRADEN RIVER W, 45-27
at Southeast L, 34-26
at Tarpon Springs East Lake L, 13-12