I'm so excited about a nice chilly Pasco-Jesuit showdown in Dade City that I may get there early enough to eat pregame breakfast, lunch and dinner in between getting in a little antique shopping. Yeah, I said it.
Here's some other thoughts as I pick 6:
1. East Lake is being given no chance against Plant. This doesn't surprise me. Folks gave up on the Eagles after their slow start and have been reluctant to return, and Plant has gotten exceedingly better. Now, the Eagles obviously do have a chance, and it requires
them putting together a handful of long drives, not turning the ball over, and if they do not making a habit of it. Plant feasts on opponents mistakes. Can't tell you how many times I've checked on the score of a Plant game and it's 7-7, and I check again five minutes later and it's 28-7.
And there's this, too: as good as Plant has looked, the third round is never easy for the Panthers. The average score of their first two
playoff games since 2005 is 50-14 (which, by the way, is an amazing stat). But the game after that? Average score is 21-18. And the last four years, the Panthers have won by 8, 15, 3 and lost by 29 (Armwood).
So, I think the question is this (unless you believe this year's team is better than the last two Panther teams): Is East Lake as good
as Countryside was in 2010 and 2009? If you think so, be comforted by the fact that last year, Plant needed a stiff arm from James Wilder Jr. to win 21-13, and the year before Wilder Jr. carried the Panthers through the mud to win 24-9.
If you don't think so, then yeah, you see it as a Plant rout. I see it somewhere in between: Plant 35-17.
2. Lakeland is a tough place to play, especially your first time. The atmosphere is something that you just don't see around here, with the exception of maybe Plant, whose tight sidelines and bodacious band can feel overwhelming. While Plant has popped a hole in the Lakeland balloon, it still has enough air to blow out Gaither.
The Dreadnaughts have had great postseason success against Tampa Bay, but since 2000 the Dreadnaughts are only 10-5 against Hillsborough County teams. Here's the key stat: half of those wins came against teams that weren't county powerhouses that year: Brandon twice, Bloomingdale, East Bay and Gaither.
Against Hillsborough, Chamberlain, Plant and Wharton (which beat Lakeland in 2002 on the way to state), the Dreadnaughts are 5-5. And three of those wins were against Chamberlain. While Lakeland has gotten the best of the area, it's not as if the Dreadnaughts, one of Florida's truly GREAT programs and football communities, have rolled over the area's BEST teams.
If you think Gaither is one of the area's top teams, then you think they can win.
If you look at Gaither as a team that has beaten three 7-3 teams but whose other six wins came against teams with a combined 8-51 record, then you think Lakeland rolls. I see it somewhere closer to the latter: Lakeland 38-14.
3. Pasco vs. Jesuit should be the most exciting game of the week, and the early word on the street (Internet, Twitter, Facebook) is that the Tigers are too big and physical for little old Pasco, and that Tommy Eveld is just too darn hot right now to be stopped.
I agree with both both assessments.
Eveld, he's blazing. Starting with the Tampa Catholic game, he has thrown 10 incomplete passes in three outings and is 44-for-54, an
astounding 89 percent. I think the real key to this game will be how his counterpart plays.
Pasco's Jacob Guy has had a tremendous season, but I'm still waiting for a big, breakout, get-on-my-back-guys kind of game. He struggled mightily against Jefferson last year, and may have to win this game.
Speaking of great postseasons, I'm nominating Janarion Grant for Best Playoff Performer of all-time. Why?
2011: Against a team with at least three Division I recruits, he may have been the best player of the field last week with over 200 total
yards an a touchdown, and is over 300 yards for the postseason.
2010: Scored the winning touchdown with 16 seconds left as Pasco rallied from 20-0 down to beat Lakewood.
2009: Had a 61-yard catch on second play to set up first score vs. Lakewood, had an 88-yard kickoff return touchdown and his short
touchdown run tied the score at 22. Unfortunately for Pasco, Lakewood had Bernard Reedy, but Grant dueled him to the end.
And he's still got one more season. If you think he can't be stopped right now, you like Pasco.
If you think Jesuit will find a way to outrush the Pirates and grind them up despite Grant's presence, you like Jesuit.
I see someone other than Grant making the big plays that wins this game for Pasco 30-28.
4. Berkeley Prep is playing an American Heritage team that beat a team (University) that was ranked nationally, and beat them soundly. And AH has a notable size advantage. But doesn't everyone when they play Berkeley? As has been noted on our weekly chat, is American Heritage any bigger up front than Tampa Catholic, whose offensive and defensive lines hold their share of Division I-A interest?
I think the Bucs will have the best player on the field in Nelson Agholor, and linebacker Schyler Miles is right there on the defensive side, and will be needed as Berkeley may be facing the best player it has seen in Greg Bryant.
If you think size doesn't matter as much as having Agholor around, you feel pretty good about Berkeley.
If you're impressed by Heritage's victory over University, and a close loss to mighty Glades Central, then you don't. I'm impressed. I like American Heritage 30-21.
5. So a couple of my buddies and I have been playing a game this week. It's the game where someone says, "Yeah, Glades Day is good, but all they have is Kelvin Taylor."
And you respond with, "Okay, well, let's fight. All I have is this grenade, but you just hold that for a few seconds and then you can fight back."
Yes, all Glades Day has is Kelvin Taylor. What's your point?
The key is, can Admiral Farragut match Kelvin Taylor score for score? I can't see him not getting 200 yards and three touchdowns at least, so the Blue Jackets have to get that and then some.
They are clearly capable. Rayshawn Jenkins has been a beast in the postseason, Todd Macon is explosive and the offensive line has really developed nicely into a very good unit. I know Brent O'Neal played with a separated shoulder in last week's win over Canterbury, but the Farragut defense was much better than when I saw it last, unable to stop Carrollwood Day's Robert Davis. It shut down a pretty good Canterbury offense.
If you think Jenkins+Macon > Taylor, you salute the Blue Jackets.
If you think Taylor is, well, unstoppable, then it's hard to pick against Glades Day. I think Taylor is that good. I'm taking Glades Day 42-28.
6. Gainesville has beaten Hernando (barely) and Sunlake (barely) in earning a third-round matchup against Armwood.
But now that the Hawks got that one bad game out of the way against Lakewood Ranch, the focus seems to be back. Not much to add here. I think Armwood would have beaten Hernando and Sunlake 42-7 or thereabouts, and I feel similarly about Gainesville.
Like everyone else, I'll take Armwood 38-8.