Plant City, Strawberry Crest, East Bay, Durant, Brandon
For the first time in 40 years, East Bay won a district title, and the Indians did it in one of the most dramatic ways possible. East Bay won in a Monday three-way tiebreaker with Strawberry Crest and Plant City. The Raiders then took the district’s runner-up spot by defeating Strawberry Crest 6-0 in the second half of the tiebreaker. Plant City ultimately finished its season 8-3 and East Bay finished 8-4.
Plant City may have been the hardest hit by graduation. The Raiders lost quarterback Landon Galloway, running back-defensive back Hassan Bailey, defensive end John Broome and major Division I offensive lineman recruit Montel McBride. East Bay, however, also lost one of the area’s best leaders in running back Chris Greene.
Plant City, Durant, East Bay and Brandon will have new quarterbacks, several of whom will be decided this spring or during the summer. Strawberry Crest quarterback Tristan Hyde will be back after missing most of last season with a torn ACL.
Plant City’s Tavares Chase is only a junior but he’s one of the hottest recruits in the country. Chase (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) is projected as a wide receiver or a defensive back. Most of the SEC schools have already offered Chase a scholarship. Raiders linebacker Sawyer Dawson also has offers from Florida Atlantic, FIU, Ball State, Buffalo and Marshall.
Despite the losses to graduation, Plant City still looks like the frontrunner because of its returning talent, including a stable of running backs that could offset any growing pains at quarterback. East Bay should be a factor as it builds on last season’s success and Strawberry Crest continues to grow its numbers, both on the roster and in its booster club. Durant is always solid in its effort and schemes and could end up surprising. Don’t forget the Cougars went 3-7 last season, but suffered one-point losses to Plant City and Strawberry Crest and a three-point loss to East Bay. Brandon also is on the upswing. Who knows? This district could once again come down to a three-way tiebreaker playoff.