South Sumter (5-0, 2-0) at Pasco (2-2, 0-1)
Story line: Pasco, long considered a county powerhouse, has a chance to right an unimpressive season against a tough district rival. South Sumter was thought to be in a rebuilding year, but has outscored opponents 249-29. The Raiders may have benefited from an easier earlier-season schedule, but their 38-15 win against Zephyrhills proves they can also win against strong teams. A win over Pasco would set up South Sumter to dominate going into postseason play.
Matchup to watch: Pasco’s offense vs. South Sumter’s defense. The Raiders have only allowed three offensive touchdowns, and the Pirates haven’t been able to pull out as many big plays as in past years. Can senior Malik Johns (eight TDs) and sophomore phenom Nate Craig get Pasco on track in its toughest matchup of the season?
Key player: Pasco TE/LB Bowman Archibald. The 6-foot-6 junior has mismatch potential: He caught his first TD of the season last week against Nature Coast and also recovered a fumble.
Mary Kenney’s pick: South Sumter, 35-14. The Raiders were impressive against Zephyrhills (4-1, 1-1) two weeks ago, while the Pirates have struggled against solid opponents.
Derek J. LaRiviere’s pick: South Sumter, 38-21. After losses to Sunlake and Nature Coast, pretty sure we’re no longer talking about flukes. The Pirates aren’t the team they used to be, and against South Sumter, that’s not going to cut it.
Nature Coast (2-2, 2-0) at Hernando (1-3, 1-0)
Story line: Early on, the Sharks’ offense looked like it would have a hard time scoring in a flag football game. But the past two weeks, something has clicked, culminating with one of the biggest upsets the North Suncoast has seen in years with last week’s victory over Pasco. A win at Hernando would put the Sharks right in the middle of a muddled postseason picture. The Leopards, meanwhile, stacked their early-season schedule with some of the best programs in the state and have three tough losses to show for it. It remains to be seen whether the team is ready for the obstacles of district play.
Matchup to watch: Hernando’s ground attack vs. Nature Coast’s run defense. Sharks coach Charles Liggett is one of the area’s most formidable defensive minds, and with junior linebacker Dylan Miller averaging 13 tackles per game, teams haven’t had much success up the middle on Nature Coast. On the other hand, that has been the Leopards’ strength. Ra’shaad Hart, Mondrell Brown (questionable, ankle injury) and Richard Graham IV have all rushed for more than 100 yards in a game at some point this season.
Key player: Hernando LB/RB Jeremiah Jackson. This senior plays both ways, but his impact is felt most on defense. He racked up 132 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery last season, and is on his way to a better 2013 campaign. He’ll be key to stopping NCT’s strong ground game.
Kenney: Nature Coast, 21-7. NCT’s strength has been keeping opposing offenses in check, enabling the Sharks to win with only a few touchdowns or at least stay in close losses. A defensive line that includes Miller, Bryant Warkentine and Roshawn Williams should be able to stop the Leopards’ running game.
LaRiviere: Nature Coast, 24-17. The Sharks have momentum on their side and seem to be figuring something out with the two-headed monster of DeShawn Smith and C.J. Maner running the ball. As long as the defense stays dependable, and there’s no reason to think it won’t, Nature Coast will prevail.
River Ridge (2-3, 1-0) at Anclote (2-3, 1-0)
Story line: This matchup could have major implications for the Class 5A, District 7 championship. The winner has a strong chance to make the playoffs and will be the favorite to win the district title. The loser will likely battle Hudson for the district’s second postseason berth.
Matchup to watch: Anclote’s rushing defense vs. River Ridge’s offense. The Royal Knights know how to run, with Ben Perdomo racking up more than 600 yards in the past three games. Anclote’s defense has started to mesh, holding opponents to under 150 rushing yards in its last two contests.
Key player: Anclote RB/LB Willie Barrett. The punishing senior leads the team in tackles (52) and is second in rushing (467 yards). The Sharks will go as far as he can carry them.
Kenney: Anclote, 21-7. The Sharks’ defense will prove too much for the Royal Knights, who have scored 42 total points this season. With Trent Crawford and Barrett running the ball, Anclote will drive up the score to stay among the district leaders.
LaRiviere: Anclote, 31-21. The impressive thing about the Sharks has been the emergence of Crawford in the backfield to go with Barrett. When you have two backs who are capable of topping 100 yards on any given night, they’ll give a defense fits.
Wiregrass Ranch (2-2, 0-1) at Gaither (2-3, 1-0)
Kenney: Gaither, 24-14
LaRiviere: Gaither, 28-7
Mitchell (3-2, 0-1) at Sunlake (4-1, 0-1)
Kenney: Sunlake, 31-14
LaRiviere: Sunlake, 24-10
Gulf (0-4, 0-1) at Hudson (3-1, 1-0 )
Kenney: Hudson, 21-7
LaRiviere: Hudson, 28-20
Springstead (4-1, 1-0) at Fivay (2-2, 0-0)
Kenney: Springstead, 21-14
LaRiviere: Springstead, 27-17
Weeki Wachee (1-4, 0-2) at Central (0-5, 0-2)
Kenney: Weeki Wachee, 28-7
LaRiviere: Weeki Wachee, 35-14
Bishop McLaughlin (1-3, 0-1) at Lakeland Christian (5-0, 0-0)
Kenney: Lakeland Christian, 42-3
LaRiviere: Lakeland Christian, 56-0
Wesley Chapel (0-4, 0-1) at Ridgewood (0-5, 0-1)
Kenney: Ridgewood, 10-7
LaRiviere: Ridgewood, 14-13