By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
In case you have not noticed, at least one thing is back to normal in the South Shore area — high school football.
The year 2020 — and it’s not done yet — has been memorable, positives and negatives, in many respects.
Now add one more: A brand new high school with no senior class has won its first two games of the football season against varsity opponents.
Sumner High School, in the once-remote, rural area of C.R. 672 just off U.S. 301, accomplished this amazing feat in the opening weeks of its young football season.
New mascot, new uniforms, new colors, new astro-turf field, new buildings, new principal (Dave Brown), new student body, new band, new cheerleaders and new players have all added up to surprising victories on the gridiron over Spoto and Blake high schools in the first two weeks of a Covid-19 football season.
Behind the leadership of head coach Alonzo Ashwood, the Sumner Stingrays made their debut Sept. 11 by shocking Spoto 21-0 on the bright, spiffy artificial surface at Sumner, located in the burgeoning residential and commercial area, officially known as Riverview, where Wimauma, Ruskin, Balm and Riverview converge. Sumner is the newest high school in the Hillsborough School District, constructed per force to accommodate overcrowding at Lennard High School and East Bay High School.
To prove the opening win over the Spoto Spartans was no fluke, Sumner turned the trick again on Sept. 17 by visiting Tampa and nipping host Blake High 7-6.
Sumner hits the road again this Friday night, Sept. 25 for a 7:30 game with 0-2 Strawberry Crest in Dover. Coach Ashwood’s 100-plus player squad is back home on Thursday, Oct. 3, facing the Newsome JV.
Only 60 Stingrays can dress out due to the fact that Sumner only has that many uniforms!
The Stingrays inaugural gridiron season continues on the road at Leto on Oct. 9. Geographic rival East Bay JV visits at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15. Then come a pair of road games. The Stingrays varsity visits the Lennard JV on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. The surprising and entertaining Sumner season concludes at Brandon varsity on Friday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
In other South Shore prep football, coach Matt Kitchie’s Lennard Longhorns opened in Tampa with a 29-22 victory over the Plant Panthers. The Longhorns’ Jones boys, Amarie Jones and Chauncy Jones II, sparked the win. Lennard comes home to Ruskin against 1-1 Alonso this Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, another longtime head football coach, Frank LaRosa, unveiled a sensational sophomore quarterback in East Bay’s home opener. The Indians rallied to beat the Sickles Gryphons of Tampa 20-14 behind QB Nathan Carter’s work in the air and on the ground. The EB Indians travel to 0-1 Durant for a Sept. 25 date. Then Coach LaRosa’s squad has two straight home games. First, perennial power Tampa Bay Tech comes to Big Bend Road Oct. 2. Then neighboring rival Riverview visits Oct. 9.
Coach William Mosel’s Sharks are 1-1 in the young season. Riverview took a whipping from Plant City 44-7 before administering a whipping to hapless Haines City 40-0 in the Sharks’ home opener Sept. 17. The Sharks take to the road to play 1-0 Newsome at Lithia Oct. 2. Then the Fish have two more travel games: the Oct. 9 engagement in East Bay and a tough Oct. 16 trip to Riverview-Sarasota. Finally, Riverview comes back to Boyette Road to host Ridge Community of Davenport Oct.23.
The Hillsborough School District has developed a detailed plan for not only football but all public school sports. The plan includes safety guidelines for athletes and coaches as well as fans. Superintendent Addison Davis said the main point of the plan is to emphasize the health and safety of athletes and anyone attending sporting events.
• The plan includes no handshaking and no high fives.
• Sanitizing facilities, the use of masks during practices and activities and limiting crowds.
• Fans must reserve a spot on an athlete’s guest list limited to four guests per athlete. Game tickets can be purchased on the athletics’ section of hillsboroughhighschools.org and are limited to four guests per athlete. Fans must wear masks at all events.