STADIUM: Chelo Huerta Field, 5000 Central Ave., Tampa CLASS-DISTRICT: 6A-8 (with Armwood, Blake, Chamberlain, Jefferson, King, Leto, Lennard, and Robinson) COACH: Earl Garcia (217-84, 28th season overall; 183-47, 21st season at Hillsborough) LAST SEASON: 9-2
QB Lawson needed to do more
Dwayne Lawson was limited by his coaches through the early part of last season, before the now-junior put up 28 rushes for 110 yards in a 3-0, regular-season shutout of Armwood. This season, Lawson will have to shoulder the load as playmaker for the Terriers and Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said there will be no restrictions on his 6-foot-5, 210-pound playmaker.
“The key to our offense is Dwayne,” Garcia said. “We didn’t run Dwayne until the Armwood game and that was by design and it worked. But this year, all bets are off. If we need to run Dwayne 26 times in the first two games, then that’s what we are going to do and we know he can handle it.”
Lawson put up good numbers last season with 99 completions for 1,459 yards, 426 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns (12 passing, five rushing). However, his 14 interceptions is a number he’ll need to remedy. The lanky junior will have to spread the ball around as he looks to find playmakers.
The only other offensive returner is someone Lawson is very comfortable with in University of Massachusetts commit Frank Carter. Carter is a leader for the Terriers. Garcia said the International Baccalaureate student carrying a 4.68 GPA is a high intensity player whose intelligence on the field is contagious
The Terriers lost 29 seniors to graduation and return only two starters on offense, one on defense and none in the skill positions on special teams. To put it simply, there are a lot of question marks that need to be answered quickly for the defending district champions.
“We’re in the SEC of high school football in the state of Florida so our kids will have to grow up in a hurry,” Garcia said. “We have two (returners) on offense and one on defense, so this is a great challenge for us and it’s our job as coaches to make sure these guys have enough practice at the speed that gets them prepared.”
Hillsborough’s coaches know how much their offense hinges on the success of Lawson. Replacing guys like Jeremiah Green, Nigel Harris and Curtis Thomas (who combined for 1,980 total yards and 32 touchdowns last season) will be a tough task. Running back Kenneth Gunn is the lone returner besides Lawson with offensive points last season (four rushing touchdowns).
Garcia is a big believer in having his guys prepared for the speed of his upcoming opponents, however with just a 45-player roster, he is finding it challenging to simulate that speed. This is especially true as the Terriers, after a Week 1 bye, open the season with Jefferson and Armwood.