Nature Coast (1-2) at Pasco (2-1)
Story line: Both North Suncoast powers have started to bounce back after slow starts to the season. The loser won’t be out of the playoff picture, but its postseason hopes will take a big hit in the crowded Class 5A, District 6.
Matchup to watch: Nature Coast’s run game against Pasco’s defense. The Sharks piled up 245 yards last week against Central and rushed for 163 in the season opener against Crystal River. They have two solid backs with big-play potential in DeShawn Smith (176 yards) and Christian Maner (141). Pasco looked a little vulnerable in Week 1, when Sunlake rushed for 154 yards and two scores. The Pirates’ D has improved since then and will be a tough test for NCT.
Key player: Nature Coast DE Rohan Blackwood. The Wisconsin commit was quiet in his return last week, but his pass rushing can change games. Sunlake’s blitzes gave Pasco problems in the Pirates’ opening-season loss. Blackwood will have to disrupt Pasco’s offense if NCT can keep it close.
Matt Baker’s pick: Pasco got its bad game out of its system in Week 1. Malik Johns and the Pirates have clicked since and won’t be scared by the Sharks. Pasco, 35-10
Derek J. LaRiviere’s pick: The Nature Coast name still carries some cache on the North Suncoast, but the Pirates seem to have righted the ship after a tough Week 1 loss. There doesn’t seem to be any slowing down Pasco now that Johns has taken over the Janarion Grant role. Pasco, 35-0
Mitchell (2-2) at River Ridge (2-2)
Story line: Only bragging rights from one of Pasco County’s biggest rivalries are at stake in this non-district game. Mitchell has beaten the Royal Knights in 10 of their previous 12 meetings. Eight of those victories were by double digits. But River Ridge enters on a two-game win streak. The Mustangs have lost their past two after an impressive start.
Matchup to watch: Ben Perdomo vs. Mitchell’s defense. Perdomo has back-to-back 200-yard games and has scored four of the Knights' six touchdowns. Mitchell’s defense has forced five fumbles and has one of the county’s leading tacklers, Larry Couch.
Baker: Mitchell’s last two losses are a product of the schedule, not the team’s abilities. The Mustangs will get back on track with a confidence-boosting victory. Mitchell, 28-14
LaRiviere: With 442 yards and seven touchdowns, Christian Trinidad leads a running game that averages 161 yards per game. Taking away the opening loss to Land O’Lakes and James Pensyl, the Royal Knights’ defense has been solid against the pass but has been poor against the run. Mitchell, 31-13
Fivay (2-1) at Anclote (1-3)
Story line: Two of Pasco County’s top rushers — and two-way players — meet. Fivay senior Davion Sutton is averaging 6.9 yards per carry and has become more important on defense, forcing and recovering a fumble last week. Anclote senior Willie Barrett leads his Sharks in rushing (346 yards), tackles (44) and interceptions (two).
Baker: Fivay is likely still fuming after Anclote edged the Falcons in last year’s Class 5A, District 6 tiebreaker to make the playoffs. Because this is a non-district game this fall, only revenge is at stake. Expect the Falcons to get it. Fivay, 21-20
LaRiviere: If Pensyl hadn’t been the North Suncoast’s version of Peyton Manning for the first four weeks, we’d be talking about Eric Vitale lighting it up for the Falcons. After falling behind last week, Vitale led the offense on a solid comeback. The Sharks will have trouble keeping up, because points won’t be an issue for Fivay this year. Fivay, 35-28
Berkeley Prep (2-1) at Springstead (3-1)
Baker: This is a different kind of challenge for the Eagles. They’ll have to recover from a thrilling, last-minute win over Class 6A, District 6 challenger Sunlake and face a strong program, with no playoff positioning at stake. Coach Mike Garofano will help Springstead avoid the trap game — barely. Springstead, 21-20.
LaRiviere: I ate my words with the Eagles’ comeback victory over Sunlake last week. Garofano has his team primed for a run at a second straight district title. The Bucs are no joke, though, with quarterback Brad Mayes and his air assault. Springstead, 24-21
Cocoa (2-1) at Hernando (1-2)
Baker: Cocoa, 38-13
LaRiviere: Cocoa, 35-7
Weeki Wachee (1-3) at Zephyrhills (3-1)
Baker: Zephyrhills, 35-10
LaRiviere: Zephyrhills, 42-13
Land O’Lakes (4-0) at Gulf (0-3)
Baker: Land O’Lakes, 38-10
LaRiviere: Land O’Lakes, 42-14
Sunlake (3-1) at Ridgewood (0-4)
Baker: Sunlake, 35-7
LaRiviere: Sunlake, 31-6
South Sumter (4-0) at Central (0-4)
Baker: South Sumter, 42-7
LaRiviere: South Sumter, 56-0