District playoff races are coming into focus. ¶ The cream is rising to the top. ¶ We’re halfway through the North Suncoast gridiron schedule and this we know: Pasco, Land O’Lakes and Sunlake are all really, really good. Just how good? We should have a better idea in three weeks. And can anyone (looking at you Hernando) break into that upper echelon and join them?
Worst story: Mitchell RB Trinidad’s torn ACL
Ricky Trinidad had Mustang fans abuzz after rushing for 399 total yards in victories over River Ridge and Ridgewood and another 212 yards in three quarters of action against Clearwater Central Catholic. Silence, though, hung over Mustang Stadium when Trinidad fell to the ground and lay motionless for minutes early in the fourth quarter against CCC. Trinidad appeared fine initially after walking off under his own power and there was even talk on the Mustangs’ sideline that he was ready to reenter the game. A couple days later, though, the senior learned he had torn his ACL, snuffing out what could have been one of the most prolific seasons in North Suncoast history.
Best of the best
Top five games from the first half
Clearwater Central Catholic 42, Mitchell 28: The Marauders’ offense was unstoppable in the first half, scoring on four of its first five drives to take a 27-7 lead into halftime. Mitchell, though, got back in the game in a hurry, pulling within six points with four minutes left in the third quarter, setting up a back-and-forth finish.
Clearwater Central Catholic 31, Wiregrass Ranch 28: Another rally that fell just short against the Marauders. CCC led 24-0 in the second quarter before the Bulls stormed back, closing the gap to three points by the third. A late turnover at midfield in the final minutes prevented the Bulls from completing the comeback.
Tavares 41, Nature Coast 35: A shootout that lasted four days due to weather conditions. By the time the Sharks finally figured out how to shut down the Bulldogs offense, they were about two drives too late.
Fivay 25, Hudson 21: The first-year Falcons scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, capped by Aaron Gordon’s 3-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds remaining, to earn their first football victory in school history.
Mitchell 14, Wesley Chapel 11: Mitchell’s first real test since losing Trinidad. The Mustangs prevailed thanks to special teams. Mitchell kicker Codi Folsom nailed field goals of 42 and 28 yards, and the Mustangs blocked a 22-yard Wesley Chapel field goal attempt with less than a minute to play to preserve the win.
Best story: Sunlake’s rise
Could anyone have predicted the success that Sunlake is having so far this season? Even Sunlake supporters couldn’t have dreamed up a scenario where the Seahawks would be 5-0 and winning games by an average margin of 34 points a game, especially after the team lost three of its past four games to end 2009. It’s hard to figure what’s been more impressive: the job that Jacob Jackson has done at quarterback, passing for 134 yards a game and rushing for 99 more, or the Seahawks’ defense, which has allowed only 14 points all season.
Best of the rest
Top five most anticipated games
Oct. 22, Pasco at Land O’Lakes: It’s like the Super Bowl, only bigger.
Oct. 22, Tarpon Springs at Wiregrass Ranch: Lost amid all the hype of Pasco-LOL, this game will likely decide the 4A-6 champion.
Oct. 29, Land O’Lakes at Sunlake: Something’s got to give when Pasco County’s most prolific offense (Land O’Lakes, 45.4 points scored a game) goes head to head with its stingiest defense (Sunlake, 2.8 points allowed a game).
Nov. 5, Pasco at Sunlake: Has to be some advantage for the Seahawks that both the Land O’Lakes and Pasco games are at home, right?
Nov. 5, Hernando at Nature Coast: The Leopards haven’t beaten Nature Coast since 2005. This matchup could be for a playoff spot should both teams win the rest of their district games. Nature Coast has won the past four meetings.
QB Stevie Weatherford, Land O’Lakes: If there was a midseason MVP, it would be Weatherford. The senior USF commit has completed 66 percent of his passes (67-for-101) with 20 touchdowns to just four interceptions and leads the county in passing yards (1,291). Weatherford also has four rushing touchdowns and one receiving.
QB Jacob Jackson, Sunlake: In his second year in the Seahawks offense, Jackson has sparkled. After struggling to break 400 yards of total offense last year, Jackson is leading Sunlake in passing (672 yards) and rushing (493 yards). And with five games remaining, it’s not out of the question for the senior to break 1,000 in each category.
QB Jacob Guy, Pasco: Blessed with size (6-4, 190 pounds) and an accurate arm, Guy is the engine that makes the Pirates’ high-energy offense go. Efficient and intelligent, Guy’s completion percentage is 57 percent and he has 1,045 yards and 14 touchdowns (12 throwing, two rushing) to his credit, but it’s his ability to distribute the ball to all of the Pirates’ weapons that makes him so valuable.