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When it comes to ranking Tampa Bay’s best football teams, it’s always been something that starts out pretty easily: Plant and Armwood, or Armwood and Plant, then everyone else.
Except today. Today is tough.
Both Plant and Armwood lost on the same night for the first time since the 2004 season openers. I am now faced with a conundrum.
There’s really two arguments to make.
1. Yeah, they lost, but look at who they lost to, and also it’s Plant and Armwood and they are so much better than everyone else that the losses don’t matter, still 1-2.
2. Countryside deserves to move up, because the two teams ahead of it lost, and the Cougars are worthy.
Now, Plant played a nationally-ranked John Curtis Christian team and Armwood hosted last year’s Class 3A state champion, American Heritage, so going by the first argument, the result of games didn’t matter. Win or lose, Plant and Armwood were going to be 1-2.
I don’t agree. Plant lost 33-3, and looked bad doing it. The defense was average, couldn’t tackle and was hit up the middle with big run after big run; the offense was, well, subpar for the second straight week, though it was missing starting left tackle Richy Klepal.
As for Armwood, it looked very good defensively when it came to stopping Greg Bryant, but the Hawks are a far cry from last year’s squad.
Countryside beat a good East Lake team, playing without Artavis Scott.
If Plant played Countryside today, I think the Cougars would have a 60-40 chance of winning. Remember, even back in James Wilder Jr.’s days, the Cougars gave Plant two of its toughest games.
If Countryside played Armwood today, I think it would be a 50-50 game.
Now, in eight weeks, as Plant gets coached up and the young Hawks improve on the offensive and defensive lines and in the backfied, maybe I don’t pick Countryside.
But today? I do.
1. Countryside 2-0 (3): The Cougars are solid in all facets of the game, and QB Christian Strong is only going to get better.
2. Armwood 1-1 (2): Another huge game for Armwood this week (against Tampa Bay Tech), with another team looking to put a Hawk feather in its cap.
3. Plant 1-1 (1): With the John Curtis Christian debacle out of the way, the Panthers can now return to the business of winning another 8A state title.
4. Largo 2-0 (4): The Packers faced a big offensive line last week and won easily, so their chances against Countryside look better.
5. Robinson 2-0 (6): Here comes Jesuit. Is it possible to have a biggest game of the season in Week 3? Maybe.
6. Tampa Bay Tech 2-0 (7): Remember the Titans? Back in 2001? That was the last TBT team to beat Armwood.
7. Pasco 1-0 (9): I’m so old I remember when Pasco or Land O’Lakes used to be a debate.
8. East Lake 1-1 (5): The Eagles’ defense has some work to do, adding a little intrigue to this week’s matchup with Tarpon Springs.
9. Jesuit 1-1 (8): The Tigers offense is starting slow, but Robinson always brings out the best in Jesuit.
10. Hillsborough 1-0 (10): The Terriers didn’t lose against an out-of-area opponent like Plant or Armwood last week, but they had just as bad an experience.
11. Gaither 2-0 (12): The Cowboys beat Leto. Moving right along...
12. Lakewood 2-0 (13): Along with Springstead, the Spartans are the only team to open with two straight shutouts.
13. Wharton 2-0 (16): I stand corrected: Chase Litton can throw on Sickles.
14. Durant 2-0 (17): Sleeper alert! I’ve been telling you, heads up for the Cougars.
15. Clearwater Central Catholic 1-1 (14): Impressive performance against Lakeland Christian has reinflated wheels of CCC bandwagon.
16. Sickles 1-1 (11): Furious comeback falls short, but Gryphons will be alright.
17. Palm Harbor U. 2-0 (NR): Yeah, I’m impressed. I’m going to start calling coach Matt LePain MacGyver.
18. Jefferson 1-1 (20): The Dragons won, but 95 points allowed in two games is still a concern.
19. Berkeley Prep 2-0 (22): Bucs and Schiano win! Bucs and Schiano win! (see, Joe Schianao, Greg’s son, plays for Berkeley Prep, so what I did was....oh, never mind.)
20. Springstead 2-0 (NR): Wow, Eagles. Just wow.
21. Sunlake 2-0 (24): Closer game than expected with Wiregrass Ranch, but Eddie Burgos continues to shine.
22. St. Petersburg 1-1 (18): A surprise manhandling by PHU, but even more surprising? Just 71 yards rushing.
23. Pinellas Park 1-1 (21): We won’t hold a loss to Largo against the Patriots, but the offense is a little disappointing.
24. Hernando 0-2 (15): Leopards still have quarterback issues to solve, and the schedule isn’t getting any easier.
25. Tarpon Springs 2-0 (NR): Running back Michael Ford is a budding star. He gets his first real test this week against East Lake.