Can’t miss matchups
Pasco at Sunlake
Breakdown: Pasco County’s top programs over the past few seasons meet again, at last. Sunlake is rebuilding after losing more than two dozen seniors but flexed a very strong defense last week against Steinbrenner. Pasco shows no signs of slowing down; Nate Craig and Malik Johns form the top 1-2 punch in the North Suncoast.
Pasco wins if: Its linemen play well. The Pirates’ lines are big but still coming together. They’ll need to open holes on offense to let the county’s top skill players excel.
Sunlake wins if: The defense forces turnovers. Jacob Guzman and the Seahawks were opportunistic last week and will need to match that to slow down Pasco’s powerful offense.
Matt Baker: Sunlake might have given Pasco a scare last year, but the Seahawks lost too much and have too many unanswered questions to compete with Craig and the Pirates. Pasco, 35-7.
Derek J. LaRiviere: It’s been three years since these teams have squared off, when the Pirates won 49-10. Don’t expect much difference with the Seahawks’ offense trying to gain footing early in the season. Pasco, 42-0.
Mitchell at Anclote
Breakdown: Two of Pasco County’s top rushing attacks meet in a matchup of strong playoff contenders. Anclote’s Willie Barrett, a Division I prospect, bruised to 1,400 yards last fall, while Mitchell’s rotating backfield rushed for more than 2,300 yards.
Mitchell wins if: It contains Barrett. That’s what Tarpon Springs did (12 carries, 10 yards) in the spring game, and the Sharks mustered only a field goal in a 28-3 loss.
Anclote wins if: Its offense shows diversity. Mitchell’s defense is strong enough to stop the run, unless the Sharks open up the field with Ty and Shy Carter at receiver, leaving the middle open for Barrett.
Baker: Both programs are on the rise, but Anclote has too many questions early. The Sharks will jell in the coming weeks — just not before a bump or two early. Mitchell, 21-20
LaRiviere: This one could come down to Barrett vs. Christian Trinidad. When these teams met in the season opener last year, the Mustangs won 20-10 behind Trinidad’s 137 yards and one touchdown. Barrett ran for 85 yards and a score for the Sharks. Mitchell, 21-17.
Hudson at Central
Breakdown: These rebuilding programs have taken steps back in exhibition games — Hudson struggled against Mitchell and Springstead, while Central faltered against Tavares and Williston. Both teams need momentum and confidence in Week 1.
Central wins if: It hangs onto the ball. The Bears lost two early fumbles last week, dropped catches and bobbled snaps in the spring. Those mistakes can’t happen against the Cobras.
Hudson wins if: The offense finally clicks. QB Joey Caruso and RB Noah Siegrist have talent but have not put together drives yet. The Cobras can be one of the county’s most improved teams if they start to capitalize on their potential.
Baker: Hudson learned some of its weaknesses last week by playing a good team (Springstead). The Cobras will correct enough mistakes to start the season with a win. Hudson, 24-13
LaRiviere: Mark Kantor took over the Cobras without much fanfare in 2012 but had the team thinking postseason before the year was out. He has the roster focused this season, and it all begins with this game against the Bears. Hudson, 38-7.
Wiregrass Ranch at Gulf
Baker: Wiregrass has had a lot more talent than its 22-game losing streak suggests. The Bulls will start to turn things around against Gulf with a much needed win. Wiregrass Ranch, 28-13.
LaRiviere: We have two programs headed in the right direction here, and Avery Welch is the real deal for the Bucs. Preseason or not, however, last week the Bulls got their first win on the field since 2010. If momentum holds true, they should have an edge. Wiregrass Ranch, 20-14.
Zephyrhills at Wesley Chapel
Baker: Zephyrhills, 35-14
LaRiviere: Zephyrhills, 31-28
River Ridge at Land O’Lakes
Baker: River Ridge 14-13
LaRiviere: River Ridge 21-13
Fivay at Ridgewood
Baker: Fivay 28-7
LaRiviere: Fivay 24-10
Jacksonville Bolles at Hernando
Baker: Bolles 35-14
LaRiviere: Bolles 38-10
Santa Fe Catholic at Bishop McLaughlin
Baker: Bishop McLaughlin 28-7
LaRiviere: Bishop McLaughlin 35-10
Weeki Wachee at Interlachen
Baker: Weeki Wachee 35-21
LaRiviere: Weeki Wachee 38-14
Springstead at Citrus
Baker: Citrus 28-24
LaRiviere: Citrus 31-27
Nature Coast at Crystal River
Baker: Crystal River 35-17
LaRiviere: Crystal River 42-14