The Sumner Stingrays had an outstanding inaugural season in 2020, going 7-1 overall, with their only loss coming to Durant. They look to carry the momentum from their great start, with the tools and a manageable schedule for them to do just that, as well as the majority of their team returning.

Head Coach Alonzo Ashwood, who was an assistant at Hillsborough High School for 14 years and was the head coach for Middleton High School for three seasons, has the necessary experience to build and lead a program.

Sophomore Carrollwood Day transfer Greg Smith will lead the Stingrays’ offense from under center. Ashwood is impressed with the 6’3” dual-threat QB’s arm talent and thinks he has the potential to be a three-year starter for Sumner. Junior Braxton Maenza started the spring game and will battle with Smith for the starting job.

The Stingrays are off to a great start, having beat a good Lennard team in their spring game 6-0. Ashwood is happy with his team’s effort. He thinks the game gave them more confidence as a team, and that it made them more cohesive with the experience they gained.

Sumner is a very young team, having only seven seniors on their roster. Having no seniors last year makes their success last season even more impressive. Ashwood thinks that the junior class is his most talented class and the nucleus of the team.

Their multiple-look, pro-style offense gives varied looks and will feature many different formations. The old-school Ashwood doesn’t believe in airing the ball out every play and wants the pass-run ratio to be around 60:40. They run different formations depending on what the defense gives them, from shotgun to I-formation with two tight ends. However, Ashwood believes that his team’s major strength this year will be his defense, which only allowed 56 points all of last season. They will have to improve on their offensive line play.

Key players include junior linebacker/running back Keoni Denny, who has multiple college offers from the University of South Florida, Western Kentucky, West Virginia and the University of Central Florida; junior linebacker Al’Vondre Lewis; sophomore cornerback/running back Devin Spencer; senior defensive end Cristian Casanova; senior cornerback Jeremiah Exceus; junior safety/running back K.Y. Webb; and last season’s team sack leader junior defensive end, Mekhi Slater, who tore his meniscus in the summer and will miss a couple games in the regular season.

Sumner has a tougher schedule than last season because they are now a part of a district. Ashwood and his team’s main goal is to win their district, which is very much within reach. Many will argue that the Stingrays’ success last season was due to an easy schedule, playing two non-varsity opponents. However, the Stingrays want to prove their critics wrong and show that last year wasn’t a fluke or the result of a weak schedule. They relish the opportunity to play against Durant, who was the only team to beat them last season, as well as historical powerhouse Plant. If Sumner wins those two games, they may very well go undefeated this year.

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.