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Friday’s football games
All at 7:30 p.m. unless noted
Mitchell (4-0, 1-0) at Sunlake (2-1, 0-1)
Breakdown: One of Tampa Bay’s biggest surprises last year, Sunlake, needs a win against one of the area’s biggest surprises this fall. Mitchell’s 4-0 record understates how impressive the Mustangs have been after rolling to wins by a combined 165-19. But Mitchell hasn’t faced a defense as strong as Sunlake’s, which has allowed only 227 yards and 31 points in three games.
Who’s hot: Sunlake ATH Eddie Burgos, who scored the Seahawks’ only touchdown in last week’s 13-7 loss to Springstead. He’s averaging 9.4 yards per touch on offense. …Mitchell LB Sammy Miller, who had 14 of his team-leading 55 tackles in last week’s 46-3 win over River Ridge. Junior Beau Beck added 12 tackles in the rivalry victory.
Matt Baker’s pick: A banged-up Mitchell will have its depth tested this week. After four blowout wins, the Mustangs will have to adapt to adversity and toughest opponent so far. How will Mitchell react when Sunlake hangs with it — or takes a lead? Expect a close game, but look for the Mustangs to stay perfect. Mitchell, 21-20
Derek J. LaRiviere’s pick: Like Springstead, the Mustangs have vaulted into the postseason discussion with their fast start. Christian Trinidad will have to rack up yardage against a proven Seahawk defensive front. Mitchell, 35-17
Nature Coast (2-2, 1-0) at River Ridge (1-2, 0-1)
Breakdown: The Royal Knights’ blowout loss to Mitchell didn’t knock River Ridge out of the playoff picture. A defeat Friday wouldn’t either, but it’s hard to imagine overcoming an 0-2 start in district play. Nature Coast is seeking its third consecutive win and momentum heading into a slate of five dangerous district games in a row.
Who’s hot: Nature Coast RB Matt Breida had another career night against Central, rushing for 201 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. DE Rohan Blackwood had three quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery last week. …River Ridge RB Justin Haystrand continued a strong senior season with a 75-yard outburst against Mitchell. He’s averaging almost 5 yards per carry.
Baker: The Sharks needed a late drive and a game-winning touchdown catch by Blackwood in the fourth quarter of NCT’s 20-13 win over River Ridge last season. They won’t need heroics like that Friday. Nature Coast, 31-17
LaRiviere: The demise of the Sharks was greatly exaggerated. Like Hernando last season, a difficult early-season schedule helped test Nature Coast. The Royal Knights have struggled and dealing with Breida won’t make things easier this week. Nature Coast, 31-13
Ridgewood (0-4, 0-1) at Gulf (0-3, 0-1)
Breakdown: Two rebuilding teams in west Pasco County have their best shot at a victory this week. Ridgewood will have extra motivation. Its new coach, Jay Fulmer, was exiled from Gulf after alleged recruiting violations. Both teams need confidence and momentum — the Bucs haven’t scored this season, and the Rams were on the wrong end of Hudson’s 18-point fourth-quarter comeback last week.
Who’s hot: Ridgewood RB Elton Grigley rushed for two touchdowns in last week’s loss and is having a solid season in the Rams’ backfield. …Gulf QB Chris Klyap continues to progress, and LB Genaro Ramirez has developed into a strong defensive player for the Bucs.
Baker: Gulf has more depth, but Ridgewood has more talent. Revenge will be sweet for the Fulmers. Ridgewood, 28-24
LaRiviere: Ridgewood looks better on paper — but that didn’t translate to results on the field in last week’s loss to Hudson. Ridgewood, 17-14
Bishop McLaughlin (2-2) at Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic (0-3), 7
Baker: The Hurricanes haven’t had a winning record in coach Derrick Alexander’s tenure. That changes Friday. Bishop McLaughlin, 35-10
LaRiviere: RJ Perciaville, in his second season as the Hurricanes’ starting QB, has the team riding a two-game win streak. A road win in Lakeland is not out of the question. Bishop McLaughlin, 31-27
Hernando (1-3, 1-0) at Central (1-3, 0-1)
Baker: Hernando recovered from a rough non-district schedule by squeezing out a close win over a solid Land O’Lakes team. The Leopards will have no problem this week improving to 2-0 in the district. Hernando, 49-10
LaRiviere: Tyrail Hawkins and Ra’shaad Hart will have an opportunity to work out their offensive issues this week. Hernando, 42-7
Fivay (2-1, 1-0) at Wesley Chapel (1-2, 0-1)
Baker: The good news: Fivay’s high-powered offense is loaded with playmakers and put up 525 yards last week. The bad news: The defense is giving up 32 points per game. Expect the D to improve this week against a Wesley Chapel offense that’s looking for consistency. Fivay, 31-20
LaRiviere: The Falcons really clicked offensively last week against Anclote, thanks in part to Davion Sutton (32 carries, 203 yards, two touchdowns). Along with the potent passing attack, this is a dangerous team in district play. Fivay, 27-17
Zephyrhills (1-2, 1-0) at Hudson (1-2, 1-0)
Baker: The Cobras’ rebuilding process made a big step with a win over Ridgewood last week. Unfortunately for Hudson, Willie Williams and the Bulldogs are much closer to becoming a finished product. Zephyrhills, 42-10
LaRiviere: If Bulldog fans thought that Willie Williams had a field day last Friday night against Wesley Chapel (20 carries, 211 yards, three TDs), then they’re in for a great show this week. The Cobras just don’t have the defense to slow down the Bulldogs’ ground attack. Zephyrhills, 49-6
Springstead (4-0, 1-0) at Land O’Lakes (1-2, 0-1)
Baker: The Gators have scored three touchdowns in their past two games. That’s not a good sign against an Eagles defense that has allowed only 28 points all season and limited Sunlake to 129 yards last week. Springstead, 28-14
LaRiviere: Last week’s victory over Sunlake did a great deal to cement the Eagles’ position as postseason contenders. Harrison Wood should be back in the backfield for the Gators after missing last week’s close loss to Hernando. Springstead, 27-21
Pasco (3-0, 1-0) at Anclote (0-3, 0-1)
Baker: The Sharks are better than their record indicates. Pasco is nearly as flawless as its record suggests. Keep an eye on how many big plays Malik Johns and the Pirates get against perhaps the most athletic team they’ll face until the playoffs. Pasco, 52-10
LaRiviere: Including this week, Anclote opponents have been a combined 13-1. The Sharks’ games against Springstead, Mitchell and Fivay were all tight, but this won’t be the week that Matt Wicks and company crack into the win column. Pasco, 49-7
Keystone Heights (3-1, 1-0) at Weeki Wachee (1-2, 0-1)
Baker: A banged-up Hornets team has already shown resolve in the school’s first all-varsity season. The offense won’t catch a break this week by facing an Indians D that has given up 14 points through four contests. Keystone Heights, 35-13
LaRiviere: The Hornets are improving every week, but will likely have their hands full with Keystone Heights after the Indians tossed a 34-0 shutout on the road last week over Interlachen. Led by senior tailback Alex Gonzales, Keystone Heights ran for more than 300 yards. Keystone Heights, 24-14