Class 5A-District 6
SCHOOLS: Bloomingdale, Durant, Lakeland Jenkins, Newsome, Riverview, Strawberry Crest and Wharton
OUTLOOK: Newsome is a young but very talented team, showing that with wins over Steinbrenner, Plant, Plant City and Wharton. The Wolves will need to remain consistent in a tough district. Fortunately, they have a complete player in Jacob VanDerLuit and a solid defense led by Connor Fitzgerald. Riverview has a lot of returning talent from its district semifinalist team last year, and the Sharks want to get over that last hump to reach the region tournament. Crest lost its top scorer from last season, when the Chargers were Hillsborough County’s last team to draw a loss in the regular season. The Chargers return eight seniors, including talented scorer Aldair Moralez-Sanchez.
Class 5A-District 7
SCHOOLS: Alonso, Countryside, East Lake, Palm Harbor, Plant and Steinbrenner
OUTLOOK: Steinbrenner was the Class 4A runner-up last season, and despite losing a lot of talent, including Jason Collister and Enrique Barboto, the Warriors return 11 starters. Steinbrenner has talented scorers in Austin Labban and Blake Wilson to go along with a great defense led by captains Joshua Rodriguez and Noah Keene. The North Pinellas County infusion into this district comes with a lot of consistency, as Countryside and Palm Harbor are usually strong teams. East Lake was a region finalist last season and looks to again be a strong team. Plant took a tough loss to Newsome but has played to draws against East Bay, Jesuit and Tampa Prep to start the year.
Class 4A-District 8
SCHOOLS: Chamberlain, Freedom, Gaither, Leto, Mitchell, Sickles and Wiregrass Ranch
OUTLOOK: Sickles is a talented team, but one that is already making adjustments. Despite winning the Wharton Tournament to start the season and improve to 4-0 with a win against Freedom this week, the Gryphons are having to replace three seniors, including two starters due to suspension and a pair of grade issues. However, that doesn’t take away from the talent Sickles still has on the pitch. Senior sweeper Donald Chapman anchors the defense in front of talented keeper Ryan Cooper. The Gryphons’ scoring focus is still taking shape, but they shouldn’t have any issues with a tough midfield led by Nate Schmidt. Mitchell and Wiregrass Ranch bring talented teams into the mix, as the Mustangs are on a three-game winning streak led by senior Mico Petrovich and sophomore Brady Friedman. The Bulls have talented scorer TJ Spana, who led the team with 33 goals last season.
Class 4A-District 9
SCHOOLS: Armwood, Blake, Brandon, East Bay, Hillsborough, King, Lennard, Plant City and Tampa Bay Tech
OUTLOOK: Lennard and King showed solid improvement last season, and that has continued heading into this season. The Lions have a talented midfield led by Alan Hackney and Michael McElroy, a good defense led by Joshua Kartheiser and a solid keeper in Nate Johnson. Lennard returns eight starters from last season. The Longhorns have started the season 3-0 behind solid scoring from Kristopher Ospina, great keeper work from Daniel Garren and leadership from Emmanuel Zamudio. Brandon and Hillsborough are both good teams, as the Eagles have two wins behind senior Dylan Dyer’s three goals and Hillsborough is off to a slow start at 1-2, but has three players with two goals each.
Class 3A-District 9
SCHOOLS: Bradenton Bayshore, Jefferson, Jesuit, Middleton, Robinson, Bradenton Southeast and Spoto
OUTLOOK: Jesuit (1-1-1) is finding its rhythm as first-year Tigers head coach Eric Sims tries to finalize his starting lineup. Michael Conlon and Ian Gutierrez lead a strong defensive group in front of keeper Lucas Schmeling. Offensively, Jesuit is looking for options to replace its top scorer from last season. However, the Tigers do have midfielder Jacob Vila and a number of talented scorers. The Manatee County teams will present a number of challenges as Jesuit looks to return to the postseason. Southeast is off to a 3-0 start. Both played in a tough district with Palmetto (which eliminated Jesuit from the postseason in 2013) last season, but have moved into a district with five Hillsborough teams.
Class 2A-District 9
SCHOOLS: Berkeley Prep, Clearwater Central Catholic, St. Petersburg Catholic, Tampa Catholic and Tampa Prep
OUTLOOK: Defending state champion Tampa Prep returns a strong team, but will miss the leadership of leading scorer and Tampa Tribune Player of the Year Shaddy Douidar and defensive leader Macsen Pritchard. The Terrapins are off to a 2-3 start, but have solid options in Michael Spezza and Andrew Samuels. Joining Tampa Prep in this district is longtime rival Berkeley Prep. The Buccaneers and Terrapins matches are always competitive, and Jan. 11 should be circled on both teams’ schedules. The Bucs return a number of talented starters, including Quinton Kauchick, Andrew Kenny and Lance Esposito.
Class 1A-District 5
SCHOOLS: Bishop McLaughlin, Brooks DeBartolo, Cambridge Christian, Carrollwood Day School, Seffner Christian, Tampa Bay Heat and Universal Academy
OUTLOOK: Bishop McLaughlin, Cambridge, CDS and Seffner Christian stay in 1A, as they are no longer in a district dominated by Tampa Prep. Universal Christian and Brooks-DeBartolo move out of the Independent ranks to join a district with new program Tampa Bay HEAT. Universal Academy is off to a 2-0-1 start, while Seffner and Bishop McLaughlin each started the season with wins. Carrollwood Day is 1-1.