By Tamas Mondovics
Providing no shortage of enjoyable football drama, this year’s Class 7A District 8 lineup brought Plant City (7-2), Strawberry Crest (6-3) and East Bay (7-3) down to the wire in an exciting three-team tiebreaker.
At the end, however, there can only be one winner and for the first time in four decades, the district championship went to East Bay, which the Indians earned at Raiders Stadium in Plant City.
Plant City was favored to take home the trophy, which a year earlier went to area rival and then undefeated Durant, led by head coach Mike Gottman.
But as the regular season was reaching its end, the Indians upset the Cougars. The 10-7 victory meant that anything was possible.
When the final whistle was blown and his battle-tested team’s district championship became a reality, East Bay coach Frank LaRosa’s thoughts early in the season, came rushing back.
“I don’t care much about what anyone says or predicts that’s gonna happen this season,” LaRosa said in an interview ahead of the season’s first game. “As I have said before, it all comes down to what happens on the field. And that is where it counts.”
With its first championship since 1973 in the bag, East Bay continued its momentum and defeated Gaither 34-14 in the regional quarterfinal game, only to face Sickles in the 7A regional semifinal, where the Indians 2013 season end.
The Raiders 6-0 win over the Chargers ending the much improved Strawberry Crest program’s hopes of its first playoff appearance and sent Plant City to face off Sickles for the 7A region quarterfinals.
On the other hand, Durant had to concede to a disappointing 3-7, 1-3 record; a much different outcome compared to last year’s unequaled regular season run.
It is noteworthy to mention a couple of area teams the Indians had a chance to cross path and who have also enjoyed a solid season including Bloomingdale with its first playoff chance in five years, led by head coach John Booth.
Since his first season with the Bulls in 2009, Booth promised success through a rebuilding process that has been gaining momentum, giving fans a solid team and a great football program not only to be proud of but truly enjoyable to watch.
The Bulls neighboring football rival, Newsome Wolves led by head coach Kenneth Hiscock, finished the season with a 5-5 record, followed by Riverview (2-7), led by former East Bay coach Michael Thornton.
For more post season information, please visit www.fhsaa.org.