All games Friday at 7:30 p.m.
5A: Countryside (10-1) at Tampa Bay Tech (9-1)
Winner faces: Alonso-Plant winner in region finals
Skinny: One of the second round’s most intriguing matchups. Pinellas County teams showed their mettle last week in the region quarterfinals, but this week the Cougars will be playing one of Hillsborough’s best. Few teams have had an answer to TBT’s defense. In six games the Titans have allowed a touchdown or fewer. This game will feature two of the bay area’s top running backs, TBT’s Maurice Hagens (1,241 yards, 16 TDs) and Countryside’s Alton Taylor (1,573 yards, 27 touchdowns), who each lead their respective counties in rushing touchdowns. So whomever stops the ground game will have an advantage.
Eduardo: TBT, 20-14
Joey: TBT, 21-14
5A: Alonso (5-6) at Plant (9-1)
Winner faces: TBT-Countryside winner in region finals
Regular-season meeting: Plant, 57-21 (at Plant)
Skinny: The Ravens must stop the big play on defense and special teams. In the teams’ first meeting, there were times when Alonso appeared upset-capable. The score was 14-all in the second quarter when Allen Sampson returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards, and things snowballed from there. Plant’s offense hasn’t been the same pass-centric one we’re used to seeing. The Panthers have been fine with winning games on the ground — and honestly, they haven’t had to do anything more. Running backs T.J. Glover and James Wilder Jr. have combined for 1,222 yards and nine touchdowns, so the Alonso defensive line, led by junior end Anthony Chickillo (111/2 sacks), must win the battle up front against Plant’s always-sound offensive line.
Eduardo: Plant, 42-21
Joey: Plant, 49-21
4A: Armwood (10-1) at Largo (9-2)
Winner faces: Punta Gorda Charlotte-Cape Coral winner in region finals
Skinny: The Hawks have been battling more than their share of injuries, particularly in their offensive backfield. Expect ailing running backs Matt Jones (calf) and Sherman Jessie (ankle) to play more this week. Five Hawks have at least 200 yards rushing and four have at least 170 yards receiving. Jessie (489 total yards), however, is the key because he has shown he can do both. Middle linebacker D.J. Hitchman has a nagging hamstring injury and might not play. Largo has already beaten one county heavyweight in Hillsborough. The Packers are 6-1 at home and allow just 10.4 points a game there.
Eduardo: Armwood, 24-10
Joey: Armwood, 21-14
3A: Lakewood (9-2) at Jefferson (9-1)
Winner faces: Ocala Vanguard-Citra North Marion winner in region finals
Regular-season meeting: Jefferson, 27-6 (at Lakewood)
Skinny: The Dragons broke open a 7-6 game with 20 unanswered points the last time these teams met. The Spartans said they were maligned by the flu bug, but the combination of quarterback Quentin Williams (nearly 2,900 yards, 34 touchdowns) and his favorite target, Andre Davis (18 TD catches, 1,069 yards), make opposing defenses pretty sick on a weekly basis. On defense, the Dragons will have to figure out how to contain Spartans star Bernard Reedy, who has 1,291 total yards (983 rushing, 308 receiving) and 20 TDs.
Eduardo: Jefferson, 27-21
Joey: Jefferson, 20-19
2A: Wauchula Hardee (9-1) at Robinson (9-2)
Winner faces: Plantation American Heritage-Belle Glade Glades Central in state semifinals
Skinny: The Knights haven’t won two region playoff games since 1977, and it will be tough this year against a Hardee team that relies on a vaunted run game averaging 360 ground yards. The Wildcats thrashed Jesuit 49-21 last week. They have a three-headed rushing monster led by Jarrius Lindsey, who has 1,150 yards and 16 touchdowns in nine games. Robinson ran out to a 36-7 halftime lead on Desoto County last week and will have to gain a quick lead again this week. And the Knights can’t play a sloppy game on special teams like last week. Quarterback Blake Rice has continued to manage the game well, and there aren’t many game breakers out there the equivalent of WR/KR/PR Frankie Williams.
Eduardo: Hardee, 28-21
Joey: Hardee, 33-28
2B: Orlando Lake Highland (10-1) at Tampa Catholic (9-1)
Winner faces: Hollywood Chaminade-Coconut Creek North Broward winner in state semifinals
Regular-season meeting: Tampa Catholic, 25-20 (at Lake Highland)
Skinny: The Crusaders have to avoid turnovers, something that almost cost them the game against Lake Highland in the first meeting. Tampa Catholic ran out to a 19-0 lead, then allowed the Highlanders back in the game with a third-quarter turnover at midfield and a blocked punt that led to another score. Last week, the Highlanders ran two interceptions back for touchdowns against Cape Coral Island Coast, and they haven’t allowed more than 19 points in their past six games. Lake Highland Prep has won seven straight since losing to TC and is 6-0 on the road.
Eduardo: TC, 24-21
Joey: TC, 30-14