Land O’Lakes (6-0, 1-0) at Sunlake (6-1, 1-1)
Story line: This 6A-6 battle comes with a healthy dose of in-city rivalry and trophy crowned with a Land O’Lakes butter tub. A Gators’ victory would mount a challenge to Springstead, the current district frontrunner, and would all but secure a spot for them in the postseason. The Seahawks need the win to keep their playoff spot a possibility.
Matchup to watch: Land O’Lakes quarterback James Pensyl vs. Sunlake linebacker Ben Wood. An earlier injury hasn’t slowed Wood, who has 61 solo tackles. Pensyl’s passing game matched against a defense that has kept opponents to a combined 22 points makes this winner hard to choose.
Mary Kenney’s pick: Sunlake, 14-10. Hudson’s ability to keep the Gators out of the end zone last week could be a strong indication of tonight’s style of play. Sunlake’s defense has shut out four teams and could be enough to break the concentration Pensyl will need. Land O’Lakes has a strong defensive line, as well, so expect a low-scoring game.
Derek J. LaRiviere’s pick: Sunlake, 17-14. Until last week, there didn’t seem to be any slowing down the Gators’ offense, but Hudson seemed to do a solid job of limiting the potent aerial attack. If the Seahawks can follow suit, expect Nathan Johnson to break through for enough yards in front of the home crowd for a victory.
Pasco (3-3, 1-2) at Hernando (2-4, 2-1)
Story line: At 2-1 in the district, Hernando is making a strong bid for the second playoff spot. But the Pirates have made the postseason for six straight seasons, and they finally looked like the Pasco (1-2) of old in last week’s 46-7 victory over Weeki Wachee. A win Friday would put them right back into the muddled Class 5A-6 picture.
Matchup to watch: Pasco running back Malik Johns vs. Hernando linebacker Jeremiah Jackson. There’s obviously more that goes into the running game for Pasco than Johns and more that will go into Hernando’s defense than Jackson. But with Nate Craig out with an ankle injury, Johns rushed for 192 yards and four touchdowns in the first half last week. The Pirate offense will lean on him again tonight. In last week’s 34-14 loss at South Sumter, Jackson kept the Leopards in the game early with his aggressive defensive play. He already has a team-high 80 tackles, building on his 132 from 2012.
Key player: Pasco QB Grant Starling. The junior signal caller hasn’t been the most consistent player on the field for the Pirates, but when he’s throwing the ball well, the Pasco offense looks like a finely-tuned machine. Although he finished the game with two interceptions, Starling’s no-huddle opening drive to put Pasco up 7-0 over Weeki Wachee last week showed all the reasons Tom McHugh has so much confidence in him.
Kenney: Hernando, 27-21. The Pirates have been shaky this year, and a Hernando team with eyes on the postseason could overwhelm them. If Jackson can stop Johns, the Pirates simply won’t be able to catch up.
LaRiviere: Pasco 31-24. Johns said he needed to be the team’s spark with Craig out of the lineup, and he’ll provide that again tonight. Building on his already astounding touchdown total (13) will prove too much for the Leopards to overcome.
Fivay (3-3, 0-1) at Mitchell (4-3, 0-2)
Kenney: Mitchell 35-28
LaRiviere: Mitchell 21-17
Steinbrenner (1-5, 0-2) at Wiregrass Ranch (3-3, 0-2)
Kenney: Wiregrass Ranch 21-14
LaRiviere: Steinbrenner 28-24
River Ridge (2-4, 1-1) at Wesley Chapel (0-6, 0-2)
Kenney: River Ridge 17-7
LaRiviere: River Ridge 14-10
Ridgewood (1-6, 1-1) at Hudson (4-2, 2-0)
Kenney: Hudson 21-3
LaRiviere: Hudson 21-7
Anclote (3-3, 2-0) at Gulf (0-6, 0-2)
Kenney: Anclote 24-3
LaRiviere: Anclote 24-0
South Sumter (7-0, 4-0) at Nature Coast (2-4, 2-2)
Kenney: South Sumter 35-21
LaRiviere: South Sumter 35-14
Fort Meade (5-1, 1-1) at Bishop McLaughlin (1-5, 0-2)
Kenney: Fort Meade 35-0
LaRiviere: Fort Meade 56-0
Orlando Colonial (2-4) at Weeki Wachee (2-5)
Kenney: Weeki Wachee 21-17
LaRiviere: Colonial 21-20