HomeTeam 25: Football rankings, Week 9
1. Armwood (7-0)
This week’s opponent: at King
Scoop: Armwood got back on track after its near-loss to Tampa Bay Tech the week before, scoring 35 straight points with a variety of offensive weapons before Brandon attempted a second-half rally. The Hawks, who beat the Eagles 35-19, can clinch a playoff spot this week with a win against King, and the championship if Brandon loses, too.
2. Plant (6-2)
This week’s opponent: vs. Freedom
Scoop: For the second time this season, the Panther defense gave up just one score in their 36-7 district win against Gaither, and the unit wasn’t just preventing points —it was scoring them. Plant’s defense scored two touchdowns against the Cowboys on back-to-back possessions. Defensive back Pat Cooper led the way with a pair of interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
3. Clearwater Central Catholic (8-0)
This week’s opponent: at Fort Pierce John Carroll
Scoop: The Marauders have already clinched their fifth straight postseason appearance and will play Sarasota Cardinal Mooney in two weeks to determine the champion and runnerup in Class 3A, District 5. This week, CCC gets a good test against Fort Pierce John Carroll (5-2), a team the Marauders could see again in the playoffs.
4. Sickles (7-1)
This week’s opponent: Idle
Scoop: Another week, another shutout for Sickles, which topped district opponent Wharton 20-0. As long as the Gryphons can keep it up against Freedom next week, they should be postseason bound, with a potential rematch against Plant around the corner.
5. Jesuit (8-0)
This week’s opponent: Idle
Scoop: The Tigers have been putting up an average of 44 points per game during the last three weeks, and running back Malik Davis — who has accounted for 11 touchdowns in that span — is a big reason why. As long as Jesuit keeps doing what it’s been doing against Spoto in two weeks, it should be undefeated heading into the annual matchup with Tampa Catholic.
6. River Ridge (7-0)
This week’s opponent: vs. Anclote
Scoop: A 27-14 victory over Zephyrhills last week put the Royal Knights in prime position to win the Class 5A, District 8 title. River Ridge has remained undefeated due in large part to a defense that has allowed just 43 points, tops in Pasco County. The Royal Knights also have won 15 straight regular-season games, currently the longest streak in the county.
7. Sunlake (7-0)
This week’s opponent: at Mitchell
Scoop: This is the biggest game of the season. A win against Mitchell would all but assure the Seahawks of winning the Class 6A, District 6 title. The teams are about as even as can with each averaging more than 35 points per game on offense and allowing 13 on defense. Sunlake has owned this series of late, winning the past five meetings by a combined 150-24.
8. Clearwater (6-1)
This week’s opponent: at Largo
Scoop: The Tornadoes meet old rival Largo in a regular-season game for the first time since 2006. Clearwater can clinch its first playoff berth since 2004 with a win. Quarterback Garrison Bryant and running back Adarius Lemons are still questionable for the Tornadoes, but coach Don Mesick said he was encouraged by their progress.
9. Plant City (7-1)
This week’s opponent: Idle
Scoop: Class 7A-9 may be crazy, but Plant City has kept itself out of the chaos. The Raiders clinched the district championship with a win against Durant to stay undefeated in the district standings. The 16 points Plant City gave up to the Cougars were the most since a Week 1 loss to Armwood, but Plant City quarterback Corey King made up for it, passing for a career-high 239 yards and three touchdowns.
10. Tampa Catholic (6-1)
This week’s opponent: vs. Gibbs
Scoop: The Crusaders’ skill players continued to show their stuff against Ridge Community. Nate Craig-Myers had a pair of touchdown receptions and Devan Barrett had three scores on the ground as Tampa Catholic won 50-25. The Crusader defense is still porous at times, though, and that could be an issue heading into the final three weeks against opponents with strong offenses.
11. Countryside (6-1)
This week’s opponent: vs. St. Petersburg
Scoop: The Cougars are the only team still undefeated in Class 7A, District 10 play and can move one step closer to making the playoffs for the first time since 2011 with a win against St. Petersburg. Since losing to Clearwater the second week of the season, Countryside has won five straight and scored more than 30 points in each of the past four.
12. Mitchell (6-1)
This week’s opponent: vs. Sunlake
Scoop: The Mustangs, who are on a six-game win streak, can come closer to making the playoffs for the second straight season by beating Sunlake. The offense is balanced with quarterback Larry Dalla Betta throwing for 16 touchdowns and Mychael Hamilton rushing for 17 so far this season.
13. Nature Coast (7-0)
This week’s opponent: at Citrus
Scoop: Last week, Sharks running back DeShawn Smith ran more than 300 yards, the third time he has reached that plateau in a game this season. He also scored five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) for the fourth time in his past five games. Those numbers are a big reason Nature Coast is in good position to finish the regular season undefeated.
14. Pinellas Park (6-1)
This week’s opponent: at East Lake
Scoop: The Patriots needed a win last week to stay in the Class 7A-9 race and they got it. Now comes another must-win against an East Lake team that has owned Pinellas Park in recent years. East Lake struggled earlier in the season against St. Petersburg’s running game, and the Patriots have an even better ground attack. Dale Foster, Alonzo McCray and Rodiez Newsome are all healthy, which makes Pinellas Park very dangerous.
15. Durant (6-2)
This week’s opponent: at Tampa Bay Tech
Scoop: The Cougars’ run has been one of the best stories of the season, but to keep it going beyond the regular season, they pretty much have to beat Tampa Bay Tech this week in a key Class 7A-9 contest. Both of Durant’s losses, against district foes Lennard and Plant City, were decided by a combined eight points, including one in overtime.
16. Tampa Bay Tech (4-4)
This week’s opponent: vs. Durant
Scoop: The Titans’ record is a little deceiving. Their four losses are to teams with a combined record of 27-6. And the losses against Armwood, Sickles and Wharton were by a combined 11 points. Last week’s 35-26 win over Lennard helped TBT stay in the playoff hunt in Class 7A-9.
17. Lennard (5-2)
This week’s opponent: at Bloomingdale
Scoop: The Longhorns came out flat in a loss to Tampa Bay Tech, but get points for a dramatic second-half rally in which quarterback Devin Black proved he’s one of the best quarterbacks around. Though it looks bleak, Lennard isn’t out of the hunt for its first postseason berth just yet, but the Longhorns need to win their next two and get some help from others.
18. Steinbrenner (7-1)
This week’s opponent: at Alonso
Scoop: The Warriors looked sharp in a 38-12 district victory against Palm Harbor University, and that means they need only one more win against Alonso this week to clinch the program’s first playoff berth. If the defense can continue the streak it’s on — Steinbrenner has given up just 19 points in the past two weeks — chances are good the Warriors will have something to celebrate soon.
19. Gibbs (5-2)
This week’s opponent: at Tampa Catholic
Scoop: The Gladiators’ success starts and ends with quarterback D.J. Johnson. But they haven’t won five games only because of Johnson. Gibbs’ receiving group of Marquez Walls, Quandale Inmon and Mar’Quan Harris have been hard to cover all season. The Gladiators have won three straight and have yet another tough road game this week.
20. Wharton (6-2)
This week’s opponent: at Leto
Scoop: Wharton started the season strong, but games against Plant and Sickles, arguably the two best teams in the district, in a three-week span was a brutal stretch. Luckily for the Wildcats, they’ll likely end the regular season on a good note with games against Leto and Chamberlain — teams with a combined one win.
21. Brandon (5-2)
This week’s opponent: at Hillsborough
Scoop: The two losses were relatively close ones against Plant City and Armwood (combined record 14-1). Despite the setback against the Hawks, Brandon still is in good shape to make the playoffs in Class 6A-7, provided it can rebound with a win against Hillsborough this week.
22. Northside Christian (7-0)
This week’s opponent: vs. Auburndale Jordan Christian
Scoop: The Mustangs clinched a playoff spot last week by defeating Indian Rocks Christian. Now comes a lesser opponent prior to the Oct. 30 game at Admiral Farragut that will decide the district champion. Quarterback Griffin Alstott appears to be getting better as the season wears on, with four touchdown passes against IRC.
23. Admiral Farragut (7-1)
This week’s opponent: Idle
Scoop: As well as the Blue Jackets have played lately, they might not want a bye week. They have won seven straight and have scored 42 or more points in the past four games. But Northside Christian awaits in two weeks. AFA will have a chance to rest up and scout before that pivotal game.
24. East Bay (5-3)
This week’s opponent: at Strawberry Crest
Scoop: After starting 2-3, the Indians have won three straight to get above .500 for the time since the beginning of the season. The next two weeks are big with games against Strawberry Crest and Tampa Bay Tech that will determine East Bay’s playoff fortunes in Class 7A-9.
25. Zephyrhills (5-2)
This week’s opponent: at Wesley Chapel
Scoop: The Bulldogs were unable to get their high-powered offense going in a loss to River Ridge last week. Despite that setback, Zephyrhills is in good position to make the playoffs, so long as the Bulldogs rebound against Wesley Chapel.
In the conversation: Cambridge Christian (8-0), Osceola (5-2), Carrollwood Day (6-1), Berkeley Prep (4-3)