Monday begins the 2016 football season for area high schools with the first day for practices.
There are plenty of burning questions to consider as fall camp begins Monday and Kickoff Classic games get underway Aug. 19.
How will Braden River cope with losing most of its offense?
The Pirates have a revamped offense with most of the players receiving significant playing time in 2015 having moved on or out with an injury. Quarterback Jacob Huesman (Appalachian State), tight end Ryan Neuzil (Appalachian State), wide receiver Travis Williams (graduated), wide receiver Juwaan Jenkins (torn ACL), the offensive line (Alex Salguero is at Marshall) needs replacing. The running back combination of a healthy Raymond Thomas and DeShaun Fenwick should help as new QB Louis Colosimo continues getting adjusted to coordinator Eric Sanders’ offense. Pirate Nation also enters 2016 no longer with the under-the-radar label as Braden River is coming off its second straight unbeaten regular season and the program’s first state semifinal appearance.
How far can Manatee go in 2016?
Manatee shouldn’t have any trouble rolling through district play en route to the program’s eighth consecutive playoff berth, but the real question is how deep can the Hurricanes go? The last two seasons saw Manatee run into a pair of Central Florida programs that ran the ball at will. The Canes are going to have an explosive offense with quarterback A.J. Colagiovanni (2,478 passing and rushing yards combined), wide receiver Tarique Milton (855 yards, eight touchdowns) and new running back Josh Booker (1,132 rushing yards at Sarasota High in 2015). The trick will be if they can contain powerful running teams. It’s an area that Manatee fans should look at during fall camp leading into the Kickoff Classic against state power Seffner Armwood on Aug. 19.
What can Southeast, Bayshore expect of first-year head coaches?
Southeast’s Rashad West and Bayshore’s John Biezuns come to Bradenton with different levels of familiarity. West was an All-Area quarterback and state champion for Seminoles during the 1990s. Biezuns has spent only one year in Florida at all as the offensive coordinator at Port St. Lucie last fall. They’ll meet Sept. 16 and once a year from now on as district rivals. In the wide-open Class 5A-District 11, they’ll both have a chance to perennially contend for the postseason.
The Noles, with an experienced defense, should be a favorite to reach the postseason from the district. The Bruins, with one of its largest recent turnouts during the spring, will have a chance to sneak into the postseason if all goes well. Judging Biezuns, though, will come down to measuring enthusiasm around the program after years in the cellar.
Can Palmetto’s defensive depth cover up its offense’s inexperience?
Palmetto was gutted of offensive skill players by graduation. It lost an Under Armour All-American quarterback to Miami. Its No. 1 wide receiver will play at Idaho in the fall. Its All-Area running back is off to Savannah State. The best returning receiver on the team won’t even be out wide this year — Jason Spicer Jr. is moving to quarterback. Only the offensive line, which brings back three starters, remains largely intact on offense.
The Tigers will have to be carried by its defense, at least at first, and PHS has the experience to manage. Rodshon Williams can be the Tigers’ next great defensive lineman and linebacker Henry Bradley gives PHS an experienced leader in the middle of the unit. Palmetto’s secondary has a chance to be one of the best in Manatee County, too, with transfers Derrick Bradley and Desmine Ross joining Mike Collins. They’ll have a few weeks to blend in with an otherwise familiar group.
How will Bradenton Christian, Out-of-Door fare joining Saint Stephen’s in independence?
Three years ago, Saint Stephen’s jumped from play in one of the FHSAA’s many districts to the independent Sunshine State Athletic Conference (SSAC). After four consecutive seasons of sub-.500 play, including a winless 2010 season, the Falcons climbed back to .500 during its first season in the SSAC.
Bradenton Christian and Out-of-Door Academy have spent the past few seasons floundering similarly to how SSES did before it found independence. They shouldn’t be overmatched this fall. The Panthers and Out-of-Door are joining a league with like-minded teams, and will be united with Saint Stephen’s to place three of the area’s biggest private school programs in the same division for the first time.
Monday — First date for practice no pads
Thursday — First date for practice in pads
Aug. 19 — Preseason classic games
Aug. 26 — Regular season begins
Nov. 4 — Regular season ends
Dec. 2-3 — State finals (classes 1A-4A)
Dec. 9-10 — State finals (classes 5A-8A)