Summer workouts, fall camp and preseason games are behind us. Now high school football games really begin to count.
So as the regular season starts this week, let’s take a stab at some bold predictions concerning area teams, in no particular order.
Most memorable running back combo
Depending on how often they get carries, Braden River’s Deshaun Fenwick and Knowledge McDaniel could become the best 1-2 backfield punch Manatee County has ever produced.
That’s quite lofty considering the talent over the years.
Just recently, Manatee High’s backfield in 2012 featured Trevon Walters and Johnnie Lang. Walters signed with Missouri before transferring to Alabama A&M this season, and Lang is a freshman at Iowa State.
Fenwick, committed to South Carolina, and McDaniel, a coveted junior prospect, possess ridiculous potential to leave their marks among the great tailbacks.
However, it’s likely one or both will see plenty of time in the slot as receivers in offensive coordinator Eric Sanders’ vast playbook.
District title contender
Manatee is going to contend for a district championship this season.
That hasn’t been a bold prediction in quite some time, but it is this season because the Hurricanes featured only eight players who had previous varsity experience during last Friday’s Kickoff Classic loss to Seffner Armwood.
The opening stretch against Lakeland this week, at Palmetto next week and Braden River at home in Week 3 should only harden the youthful Canes for district play, when the offense should start clicking under new head coach Yusuf Shakir’s system and exploit some weak opposition. With Venice lurking at the end of the regular-season schedule, a district title likely is the only path to the playoffs.
Palmetto is this year’s potential sleeper. Loaded with experience, the Tigers haven’t gone to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
The new playoff format wasn’t just created for more parity and to siphon teams back into the Florida High School Athletic Association fold, but also for teams like Palmetto.
The Tigers are saddled in a top-heavy Class 7A-District 11, where Braden River and Venice have traded league titles the past two years.
This season, though, expect Palmetto to navigate a stout schedule and make waves as a potential playoff team.
Wild 5A-11 race should continue
Parity lovers enjoy Class 5A-District 11 football the most, because you can never tell which team will emerge as the champion before the season starts.
The district grouping of Southeast, Bayshore, Sarasota Booker, Wauchula Hardee and Arcadia DeSoto saw Englewood Lemon Bay added to the mix a couple seasons ago. All that did was add to the chaos.
Since Palmetto moved up in classification after the 2012 season, Hardee (twice), DeSoto and Lemon Bay have each hoisted a district championship. The Seminoles, with second-year starting quarterback Alex Taylor leading an improved offense, should contend, while another player to watch is Lemon Bay quarterback Hayden Wolff. The 6-foot-5 Wolff already has an SEC offer from Kentucky.
Flirting with 2,000
Cardinal Mooney’s offense runs through running back Bryce Williams. The Minnesota commit not only should lead area ball carriers in rushing yards, but he might get close to 2,000 this season.
The Cougars like to feed him the ball. Williams had 256 rushing attempts in 2016 and is poised for another monstrous workload against some stiffer competition this season.
Expect Williams to rack up the yards.
IMG Academy is going to win the USA Today national championship, Saint Stephen’s is going to repeat as Sunshine State Athletic Conference champion, and Bayshore and Lakewood Ranch will increase their win totals from last season.
And finally, football fans won’t yell at any officials this season.
OK, that last one isn’t going to happen.
Hey, we did say these were bold predictions.
High school score reports
Coaches, please e-mail results from your team’s games, along with top players and key statistics, to email@example.com. Each day’s prep roundup can be found the following morning at bradenton.com/sports/high-school.