Hernando (2-5) at Zephyrhills (6-1)
Story line: The Bulldogs control their own destiny for a playoff spot coming out of Class 5A, District 6, but the toughest piece of their schedule has arrived with this game against the Leopards preempting next week’s vaunted 9-Mile War against Pasco. If Zephyrhills can keep from looking ahead, the program could be in line for its first postseason bid since 2006. A victory keeps Hernando’s hopes alive and throws a wrench into the unpredictable standings. Pasco, Zephyrhills and Hernando would all be tied with two district losses.
Matchup to watch: Zephyrhills’ speed vs. Hernando’s defensive front. Last week in a 70-21 victory at Central, the Bulldogs were able to rack up five touchdowns from Jaylen Pickett and four more from Devon Brockington, each of whom have 10 trips to pay dirt this season. Combine those two with the dynamic abilities of Jordan Roberts, and a number of players are capable of taking the ball the distance whenever they touch it. If Hernando takes them down, expect Jeremiah Jackson to step up like he did against Pasco (22 tackles, forced fumble). Jesse Gaudin (16 tackles for a loss), Steven Delaine and Justin Roberts will also be major factors for the Leopard defense.
Key players: Hernando’s wide receivers. Tyler Kline looked very good against Pasco despite the Leopards not scoring in a 7-0 shutout loss. His 2-of-14 passing stat line did not reflect eight drops from his receiving corps that cost Hernando multiple first downs and field position. If the Leopards are going to upset Zephyrhills this week, Derrell Holland, Troy Grant and Ty’Quan Carr will have to come down with some of those catches. The lack of a passing attack also allows the defense to stack the line on Hernando’s running game.
Mary Kenney’s pick: Zephyrhills 35-14. The Bulldogs have made a habit of running out to a big lead and never giving their opponent a chance to catch up. Their running game will likely overwhelm the Leopards.
Derek J. LaRiviere’s pick: Zephyrhills 28-17. Bulldogs coach Reggie Roberts has been impressive with his balance offensively. It is a difficult team to predict with all of those weapons. Between home field and that explosiveness, Zephyrhills should emerge one win closer to a postseason berth.
River Ridge (3-4) at Hudson (5-2)
Story line: The Cobras are coming off a successful homecoming night to face district foe River Ridge. The Royal Knights eked out a win against Hudson last year in the Cobras’ last game of the season, but the Cobras are a different team this year. They are tied for first place in 5A-7 (3-0) with Anclote. A win clinches Hudson’s first postseason berth since 2009. A loss would make the following week’s matchup with Anclote a must-win to force a three-way tiebreaker.
Matchup to watch: River Ridge’s rushing attack vs. Hudson’s defense. The Cobras will need to stop Ben Perdomo, who has rushed for 879 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Hudson linebacker Shaun Michael has 61 tackles and leads a lineup that could be enough to keep the Cobras in a low-scoring game.
Kenney: Hudson 28-17. The Cobras see this year as a comeback. It’s the first time in a while that they’ve had postseason aspirations. Look for Hudson quarterback Joey Caruso’s passing game to stump the River Ridge defense.
LaRiviere: Hudson 27-21. Signs of the Cobras’ resurrection began last season, but some fans were disappointed after the team ended 2012 on a low note, losing to the Royal Knights. Siegrist and Perdomo should provide an interesting matchup, but look for the deeper Cobra offense to come out on top.
Mitchell (5-3) at Springstead (6-1)
Kenney: Springstead 28-7
LaRiviere: Springstead 31-14
Sickles (6-1) at Wiregrass Ranch (3-4)
Kenney: Sickles 35-7
LaRiviere: Sickles 42-7
Fivay (3-4) at Land O’Lakes (6-1)
Kenney: Land O’Lakes 42-21
LaRiviere: Land O’Lakes 38-14
Gulf (0-7) at Ridgewood (1-7)
Kenney: Gulf 28-24
LaRiviere: Ridgewood 27-10
Wesley Chapel (0-7) at Anclote (4-3)
Kenney: Anclote 28-3
LaRiviere: Anclote 35-6
Weeki Wachee (3-4) at South Sumter (7-0)
Kenney: South Sumter 35-0
LaRiviere: South Sumter 56-7
Bishop McLaughlin (1-6) at Berkeley Prep (2-4)
Kenney: Berkeley Prep 28-14
LaRiviere: Berkeley Prep 42-14
Nature Coast (2-5) at Forest (2-5)
Kenney: Nature Coast 28-24
LaRiviere: Forest 31-28
Central (0-8) at Pasco (4-3)
Kenney: Pasco 35-0
LaRiviere: Pasco 56-0