Spring football wraps up Friday night with the bulk of the public school games in Pinellas County. Here are some matchups and other things to keep an eye on.
One of the most anticipated games is Countryside at St. Petersburg. Last year, the Green Devils won in large part because of their experience, handing Jared Davis a loss in his coaching debut with the Cougars.
Both teams went on to go undefeated in the regular season. St. Petersburg lost in the Class 5A region quarterfinals to Venice and Countryside lost to Plant in the 5A region final a second straight year.
The Cougars have been itching for another shot at the Green Devils, but both teams will have a decidedly different look after losing so many starters to graduation.
The biggest holes for both teams to fill are on the offensive line. Expect both to throw more than usual. Countryside quarterback Gray Crow, who has committed to Miami, will operate a more wide-open offense that will feature five-receiver sets. St. Petersburg is still committed to the wing-T, but will mix in some rollouts and play action to take advantage of quarterback David Jones’ athleticism.
This isn’t the only meeting between the teams this season. Both are now in the same district, which will only intensify what is shaping up to be one of the county’s best rivalries.
Gibbs and Lakewood did not shy away from scheduling state powers in their spring games. The Gladiators are traveling to Bradenton Manatee, which played in the Class 5A state final in 2009 and advanced to the state semifinals last season. The Spartans are hosting Lakeland, which has lost to Plant in the 5A state semifinals the past two seasons.
Two games will feature new coaches squaring off against each other. First-year Dunedin coach Max Smith returns to Northeast, where he was an assistant last year. He faces Mike Jalazo, the former head coach at Clearwater Central Catholic and Leto.
Meanwhile, Palm Harbor University’s Matt Lepain, the former defensive coordinator at Largo, plays Boca Ciega and coach Antez Brinson, who was a longtime assistant at Lakewood.
After giving up an average of 43 points per game, Osceola should show considerable improvement on defense considering it returns 28 players from last season. But the results might not show tonight against East Lake, which has one of the most prolific offenses in the county with quarterback Pete DiNovo returning, along with tailback Tyler Lane, tight end Stephen Buric and receiver Artavis Scott.
Tonight’s game against Clearwater will be the first time Largo quarterback Juwan Brown has played in a game since the fifth game last year against Tarpon Springs. Brown tore the lateral meniscus and suffered a stress fracture in his right knee. Packers coach Rick Rodriguez said Brown has looked strong in practice. Brown will direct an offense that returns nearly everyone, though it will be without running back/linebacker Derrick Doss, who is sitting out the spring because of a knee injury.
One of the biggest battles of the night will be Clearwater Central Catholic’s offensive line against Seminole’s defensive line. The Marauders have one of the best offensive line prospects in the county in Ian Koch, but they don’t have much size and are still looking for depth. The Warhawks graduated some solid contributors to their defensive line and will rely on Jaxson Parker to create pressure.
Two rising sophomores, Largo’s Jarvis Stewart and East Lake’s Artavis Scott should get plenty of work. Stewart, who burst onto the scene last year as a dependable ball carrier, should get the bulk of the carries with Doss out.
Scott was used sparingly last year because the coaching staff wanted to make sure he stayed healthy the entire season. But he should see an expanded role as a receiver and runner and will still return kicks.
Plenty of big-time recruits who have signed with in-state schools will be playing Friday, including Pinellas Park’s Jeremi Powell (Florida), Lakewood’s Dante Fowler (Florida State) and Crow (Miami).
Friday’s spring football games
Largo at Clearwater, 6
Pinellas Park at Springstead, 7
Boca Ciega at Palm Harbor U., 7
Lakeland at Lakewood, 7:30
Countryside at St. Petersburg, 7:30
East Lake at Osceola, 7:30
Seminole at Clearwater Central Catholic, 7:30
Dunedin at Northeast, 7:30
Gibbs at Manatee, 7:30
Dixie Hollins at Central, 7:30