Gainesville Eastside (6-5) at Pasco (11-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Winner gets: Robinson/Lakewood winner in the Class 5A region finals
Common opponents: Pasco beat Anclote 34-0 in the regular season and defeated Citra North Marion 34-10 last week. Eastside shut out Anclote 37-0 last week and edged North Marion 42-41 to win the district championship.
About Gainesville Eastside: The Rams’ focal point is Sir Jackson, a two-star recruit and the son of former Florida star Willie Jackson, who spent nine seasons in the NFL. He’s thrown for 11 touchdowns in his past five games while rushing for three and scoring on an interception return against Anclote last week. RB Dantez Willis is another threat on offense, and Barry Johnson is a disruptive defensive lineman. Eastside held Anclote to negative rushing yards last week in a convincing win.
Pasco’s top performers last week: Pasco RB David Emmanuel, who rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns, had two tackles for a loss and broke up two passes in one of the best performances of his career. Pirates defensive linemen Joey Ivie and Morgan Flournory combined for 8.5 sacks. Pasco QB Ben Chandler rushed for his first score of the season.
Matt Baker’s pick: Eastside’s front seven is talented, and Jackson will be one of the best players Pasco has faced this year. But coach Tom McHugh and the Pirates will find answers for both. Pasco is deeper and boasts more game-breaking talents, which will be the difference. Pasco, 28-14
Derek J. LaRiviere’s pick: After seeing what Eastside did to Anclote last week, there’s no doubt there’s talent there. But generally, this matchup looks too much like the North Marion game on paper. With the various threats of Grant, Emmanuel and even the arm of Chandler at McHugh’s disposal, there is just too much for the Rams to worry about. Jackson won’t have the running room he had last week with the athletic Pirate defense spying his every move. Pasco, 38-14.