Can’t-miss games | Friday’s biggest games
All games at 7:30 unless noted
Land O’Lakes (1-1) at Hernando (0-3)
Breakdown: Both teams need a victory. The Leopards could use some confidence after a winless start, and the Gators want to put a 49-7 loss to Pasco behind them. Hernando and Land O’Lakes remain two of the district’s top teams, regardless of their records. The winner becomes the early favorite to take the title, while the loser’s playoff hopes will take an early hit.
Who’s hot: Hernando QB Ra’shaad Hart, who took the job last week from ATH Tyrail Hawkins and rushed for 60 yards. RB Quentin Adams added 63 rushing yards and his first TD of the season. …Land O’Lakes LB Darius Wells, who racked up a team-best 13 tackles in a loss to Pasco. Larenz Scroggins could get plenty of carries and is averaging 38 yards per kickoff return.
Matt Baker’s pick: Hernando should look more like the team that beat Pasco than the one that’s struggled since then. Hawkins and the Leopards finally pick up the first career win for coach Dwayne Mobley. Hernando, 24-21
Derek J. LaRiviere’s pick: Hard to believe that the Leopards, plagued by turnovers and lack of discipline, will suddenly turn it around when district play begins. The Gators are not the type of opponent Hernando can underestimate. The question becomes whether Hernando can get enough touches for Hawkins and Hart. Land O’Lakes, 28-27
River Ridge (1-1) at Mitchell (3-0)
Breakdown: One of Pasco County’s top rivalries has plenty on the line. The Mustangs have dominated — but they were 3-0 last year, too, before a deflating 20-10 loss to River Ridge derailed their season. River Ridge hung with a good Fivay team in the opener but looked out of sorts in a comeback win over Ridgewood in Week 2.
Who’s hot: Mitchell RB Christian Trinidad dominated Ridgewood, racking up five touchdowns in the first three quarters of the Mustangs’ runaway 48-6 win. LB Beau Beck has 21 tackles and three passes defended in the past two games. …River Ridge WR George Cordova is averaging two touchdowns per game, and RB Justin Haystrand ran for a career-high 67 yards and a score against Ridgewood in Week 2.
Baker: Mustangs coach Scott Schmitz will finally see how his team responds in adversity — with a big victory to set up a great showdown with Sunlake next week. Mitchell, 28-24
LaRiviere: Mitchell is undefeated and looking to prove itself as a district title contender. The difference between this season and last is that the Mustangs’ offense is now led by the game-breaking Trinidad. The Royal Knights’ defense may be surprised considering Trinidad had only one carry for no yards in the 2011 game. Mitchell, 31-17
Sunlake (2-0) at Springstead (3-0)
Breakdown: Both teams eked out close victories in their last games. Springstead gave up its first points of the year but held on for a 28-21 win over Anclote. The Bulls overcame six fumbles (four lost) to knock off Wiregrass Ranch 17-12. An Eagles win solidifies their playoff hopes. Sunlake is trying to prove last year’s postseason run wasn’t a one-time affair.
Who’s hot: Sunlake ATH Eddie Burgos is averaging 172 rushing yards and two touchdowns. DL Nick Hoffman (13 tackles, four sacks) and Travis Manecke (12 tackles, one sack) have led the Seahawk defense. …Springstead QB Tyler Mahla showed versatility by rushing for 86 yards and throwing a touchdown last week, and sophomore RB Daniel Wright has rushed for two scores in every game so far.
Baker: Springstead has been a great story so far, but the Eagles don’t have the playmakers to hang with Sunlake. Burgos will help hand Springstead its first loss of the year. Sunlake, 27-17
LaRiviere: An upset victory over the Seahawks would take discipline, especially after Springstead surrendered 49 points and 432 total yards to Sunlake last season. Springstead, 31-21
Anclote (0-2) at Fivay (1-1)
Baker: This one will be closer than you think. Anclote has some of the county’s most underrated players — Willie Barrett and Tymere Carter, to name two — but Fivay has learned how to win the big games. Like this one. Fivay, 28-20
LaRiviere: Despite being 0-2, Anclote’s losses to undefeated Springstead and Mitchell were not blowouts. Matt Wicks’ program was the first team in 12 quarters to score on the Springstead defense. Meanwhile, the Falcons have underperformed early on in the followup to their surprising 2011 postseason berth. Anclote, 27-24
Bishop McLaughlin (1-2) at Merritt Island Christian (0-2), 7 p.m.
Baker: The Hurricanes found a ground game last week with Austin Meyers, who can help out an air attack led by QB RJ Perciavalle. Expect Bishop’s offense to keep improving. Bishop McLaughlin, 35-20
LaRiviere: The Hurricanes are coming off a confidence-building comeback victory and beat these same Cougars 28-7 at the end of last season. The first win for Bishop McLaughlin in 2011 sparked a four-game streak. There’s no reason to think the program can’t follow up again. Bishop McLaughlin, 35-12
Weeki Wachee (1-1) at Umatilla (3-0)
Baker: The Hornets will be able to compete in some district games — just not this one. The Bulldogs are too strong for a new program. Umatilla, 31-17
LaRiviere: Friday’s two-hour road trip to square off with the Bulldogs will provide many new obstacles for these first-year varsity players. Undefeated Umatilla is balanced offensively and has given up only 13 points all season.
Wesley Chapel (1-1) at Zephyrhills (0-2)
Baker: The Bulldogs romped to a 22-point victory over Wesley Chapel last season. Although the Wildcats will keep it closer Friday, Zephyrhills will pull away with its athleticism and speed. Zephyrhills, 31-20
LaRiviere: After losing standout linebacker Jordan Mutcherson and its first two games, Zephyrhills needs to get back on track with a win in its district opener. Much-improved Wesley Chapel has the tools to avenge last season’s 38-16 loss but not enough experience. Zephyrhills, 35-17
Wiregrass Ranch (0-2) at Gaither (2-1)
Baker: The Bulls won’t be able to keep up with a Cowboy offense averaging 38 points per game led by former Wesley Chapel QB Alex McGough. Gaither, 35-13
LaRiviere: The Bulls’ 39-0 loss to the Cowboys last year highlighted the gap between the two rosters. With Wiregrass winless again going into this game, expect a similar result. Gaither, 35-6
Hudson (0-2) at Ridgewood (0-3)
Baker: The Cobras want revenge after their close loss to Ridgewood last year gave the Rams their only win of the season. But the Rams’ rebuilding process is a step or two ahead of Hudson. Ridgewood, 28-13
Lariviere: Under new coach Jay Fulmer, Ridgewood has made strides every week and looks on its way toward respectability once again. Hudson, under Mark Kantor, the Cobras’ third coach in four years, seems to still be searching for an identity. Ridgewood, 24-13
Gulf (0-2) at Pasco (2-0)
Baker: The Pirates’ 61-0 win over Wiregrass Ranch is the template for the rest of the regular season. Pasco, 49-9
LaRiviere: One more week for Janarion Grant to heal up. One more win for the Pirates without him. And one more chance to appreciate the potential of new Pirates QB Jajuan Henry. Pasco 63, Gulf 0
Central (1-2) at Nature Coast (1-2)
Baker: The Sharks needed last week’s win over Dunnellon to regain their confidence. A big win over Central will be another emotional boost heading into a district schedule that’s tough the rest of the way. Nature Coast, 42-10
LaRiviere: The Bears have hung tough in each game this year. But that likely won’t be the case against the Sharks and star tailback Matt Breida. Nature Coast got a big road victory last week in Dunnellon and could be a district contender. Nature Coast, 52-6
For extended predictions on all of tonight’s matchups, visit tampabay.com/hometeam.