TAMPA – Reclassification and redistricting could have a major impact on the upcoming boys soccer season, with the class 5A and 6A districts involving Hillsborough County schools looking more balanced than in recent seasons.
But despite all the movement, when the postseason comes will it be a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same?
“Every year is a new year, and over the course of 10 years you have certain teams who are just always there, and I don’t think that’s going to change,” Gaither coach Eric Sims said. “I think teams with good programs as long as their getting an influx of decent players, I think they’ll be there.”
That may be the case in some instances, with Tampa Prep in particular looking to have excellent final four credentials in Class 2A, as does Jesuit with its return to 4A, but the realigned districts in Class 5A and 6A appear as though they will offer serious competition, and maybe some surprises come district tournament time.
The Cowboys new district, Class 5A-District 9, also includes returning state runner-up Freedom, Sickles, King and Leto. Sims, though, believes Hillsborough could be a surprise team that could find its way into the postseason. The Terriers include Kofi Forkuoh, who could be poised for a breakout season. After making the playoffs twice before missing out the past two seasons, Steven Colborne believes by the time the end of the season arrives, his side will be able to compete with anyone else in their district.
“We’re going to go into it open-minded, and do our best and try to progress as the season moves on,” Colborne said. “We might be a little rusty at the beginning of the season, but by the end of the year, we’re going to be pretty competitive.”
In Class 5A-8 Durant coach Jamin Hollingsworth, whose side reached the Region Final last season, thinks East Bay is probably the favorite to win the district, which would give the Indians back-to-back trips to the postseason for the first time in the their history. Wharton, now in Class 6A-8, is likely the favorite to win its district, but the Wildcats will likely see strong competition from Alonso, Bloomingdale and even a young Plant squad.
Freedom coach Dennis Derflinger thinks the balance in the Patriots’ new district, and in Class 5A-8 and 6A-8, is going to give more teams more competitive matches over the course of the season, which will help teams build for a postseason run.
“I think it’s great, I think it’s great for soccer in general,” Derflinger said. “You don’t want to look at a district and see that you don’t have any challenges throughout your district games. In my own opinion, I want the difficult games. You want to play your guys against some competition to see what they can actually do, that way you’re prepared for the postseason stuff.
“If you don’t have that experience, you might be facing things beyond districts that you’re not used to seeing, and at least during the season it gives you a chance to correct problems that may occur against the better opposition.”