PLANT CITY — Plant City coach Wayne Ward has high expectations for junior Markese Hargrove this season. Many times the second or third option at running back and receiver last season, Hargrove finished 2013 with 164 rushing yards and caught 25 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown as a receiver.
The players ahead of Hargrove on the 2013 depth chart have graduated, and now it’s Hargrove’s turn to be the go-to player.
“It’s a big acceptance and the weight will be on me to lead,” Hargrove said. “I have to put the team on my back. They see something in me, they trust me and my skill level.”
Offensive coordinator Josh Ballinger said Hargrove also will be also on special teams and perhaps in the Wildcat formation.
When he learned he would have a more prominent role in the upcoming season, Hargrove added 12 pounds during the offseason. During the summer, he also trained with his older brother, former Plant City running back Dazmond Patterson, now a junior running back at Ohio University. Holding on to the football was one of Hargrove’s main areas of improvement.
Hargrove has learned from watching Patterson to not let his size limit his ability.
“I’m little, but I can still hit you,” he said.
Hargrove’s individual goal this season is to break Patterson’s all-purpose total of 2,100 in 2011.
“Lightning in a bottle,” Ballinger said of Hargrove. “At any point, any play, he can be gone down the sideline.”
The Raiders have the personnel to have an above-average running attack with juniors Markese Hargrove and Sterling Day. Day rushed for 514 yards and seven touchdowns last season, while Hargrove had 164 yards. Sophomore Ge’Shawn Parker, who only played in three games last season, will be another option at running back.
Head coach Wayne Ward said the offensive line, led by Evan Crowell, will be more athletic than last year’s group.
Sophomore Cory King, the backup quarterback last year, is battling Austin Carswell, a transfer from Strawberry Crest, for the starting position. Carswell threw for 930 yards and 13 touchdowns last season for the Chargers while also rushing for 216 yards and a touchdown.
Linebacker Sawyer Dawson, the leading tackler from 2013, returns for his final year. He had 87 tackles with three interceptions and two sacks last season and has verbally committed to Purdue.
“He’s always around the football and it feeds off to the rest of the guys,” Ward said.
In addition, Ward is expecting a breakout season from sophomore linebacker Steven Ogletree.
Plant City reached the playoffs last season as the district runner-up to East Bay and graduated several key players from that team, namely All-American offensive lineman Montel McBride, quarterback Landon Galloway, defensive linemen Sedric King and John Broome, running back Hassan Bailey and free safety Jyquis Thomas. Junior Tavares Chase, the team’s leading receiver from 2013, transferred to Bradenton’s IMG Academy during the summer.
Ward said the graduation of so many key players will allow this year’s group to make a name for itself.
♦ About The Raiders
Stadium: Raider Stadium, One Raider Place, Plant City
Class-District: 7A-8 (with Brandon, Durant, East Bay and Strawberry Crest)
Coach: Wayne Ward (25-17, fifth season)
Last season: 8-3
Aug. 29: Steinbrenner
Sept. 5: at Wharton
Sept. 19: at Durant
Sept. 26: Bloomingdale
Oct. 2: East Bay
Oct. 10: at Tampa Bay Tech
Oct. 17: Spoto
Oct. 24: at Strawberry Crest
Oct. 31: Brandon
Nov. 7: at Gaither