Middleton and Hillsborough Ready for Head-to-Head Season Opener
Two Seminole Heights rivals get football season started with a head-to-head clash.
As the Republican National Convention wraps up, residents of Hillsborough County will be able celebrate life returning to normal with one of their favorite past times: high school football.
Seminole Heights will be treated to the area's biggest game of the season in week one with Hillsborough traveling to rivals Middleton in an annual neighborhood battle for bragging rights.
"Getting the chance to get the season underway is exciting as it is, but doing it against your neighborhood rival is a level above," Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said. "We've had a good preseason. We didn't have any major injuries, so we're excited to get our season going with a win on Saturday night."
The Terriers have won the last six meetings between the schools, although not by the dominant margins that the Terriers walked off the field with last year after a 30-0 victory in the opening game.
That game was Middleton coach Alonzo Ashwood's first contest in charge of the Tigers after six years working under Garcia at Hillsborough, his alma mater. After having a year to put his stamp on the Middleton program, Ashwood is looking to put his best foot forward in 2012.
"We just have to put last year behind us and grow from it," Ashwood said. "We have to put more discipline in the team. We had a lot of guys last year who had never played on the varsity level. It was a year of growth and learning the fundamentals last year. We're teaching the basics."
Keys to the game
While the Terriers didn't suffer any preseason injuries, they weren't so lucky throughout the summer break as tailback Trevor Stankey broke his leg during a summer workout at the University of South Florida. While Stankey's rehabilitation is going well, he won't be available to Garcia for Saturday's season opener.
"Trevor is doing well and should be back in time for the second game of the season," Garcia said. "We like our chances in this game regardless. We expect to be undefeated every season because if you don't, you're asking for trouble."
With a sophomore quarterback taking the reigns of the Terrier offense, Garcia's hopes for an undefeated season are bolstered by the experience of his defense, which will start ten seniors on Saturday night.
"I think our defense has a chance to be something special," Garcia said. "We're starting ten seniors and that side of the ball is going to be very important for us due to the fact that we're starting an inexperienced quarterback on offense. As long we play good defense and cover kicks well, we'll give our offense a chance, we just have to stay healthy."
For Middleton, this season represents another chance to start fresh after Ashwood's first season didn't go as planned with the team finishing 0-11. This year, he is looking to build on that experience.
"We have a very good defense," Ashwood said. "This year we have some more experience on that side of the ball and this season the coaches know exactly what our kids can do. You want to put them in the best situation to win and this year I think we can do that."
Last spring, the Tigers faced off against the Terriers in an exhibition losing 15-0 to their Osborne Avenue rivals, but that game may have been just the experience Ashwood's team needed to get them prepared for productive summer workouts. The coach is looking forward to finding out Saturday night.
"I was part of that staff for a long time so I expect them to be disciplined and get after the ball," Ashwood said. "It'll take a near perfect game for us to win but if our kids do their assignments and play with the mentality that we've been trying to instill, we'll be okay."