Friday’s football games
All at 7:30 unless noted
Nature Coast (3-2, 2-0) at Sunlake (3-1, 1-1)
Breakdown: Sunlake eked out a 13-8 win last year with a long touchdown pass in the closing minutes. This year’s game should also be close. A loss would heavily damage the Seahawks’ hopes for another playoff run. Nature Coast hasn’t faced a district opponent this tough yet and needs to make a statement before the schedule gets challenging.
Who’s hot: Sunlake RB Eddie Burgos, who rushed for 152 yards and four touchdowns last week, and QB Josh Zifer, who ran for 141 yards on 17 carries in last week’s 36-7 win over Mitchell. …Nature Coast RB Matt Breida, who is second in Tampa Bay in rushing and has back-to-back 200-yard games. LB Joey Berrios had 12 tackles and three sacks in last week’s 34-21 win over River Ridge.
Matt Baker’s pick: I picked against Sunlake and looked bad last week. I won’t make the same mistake now. The Seahawks have a strong run game and a great defense — enough to earn another close win. Sunlake, 17-14
Derek J. LaRiviere’s pick: The Seahawks have proven that they are among the cream of the crop after walloping Mitchell. The Sharks are trying to show they are district contenders as well. With Breida in the Nature Coast backfield, the Sharks always have a chance. Sunlake, 24-21
Mitchell (4-1, 1-1) at Land O’Lakes (1-3, 0-2)
Breakdown: The Gators aren’t out of the playoffs yet in this crazy district, but they need some wins quickly. The return of RB Harrison Wood didn’t help much last week but could pay dividends against the Mustangs, who surrendered more than 300 rushing yards to Sunlake. Mitchell has been a first-half surprise thanks to a balanced run game, but injuries are piling up all over the field.
Who’s hot: Mitchell RB Christian Trinidad, who has back-to-back 100-yard games after rushing for 141 last week. Sammy Miller racked up 13 tackles in the loss to Sunlake. …Land O’Lakes LB Kyle Forchion, who scored his second touchdown of the year by recovering a blocked punt for a score in a 20-7 loss to Springstead. Darius Wells had 15 tackles in the defeat.
Baker: The Gators will play with pride and passion to show that they’re not done yet. They’ll catch a sound Mitchell team at the right time. Land O’Lakes, 24-21
LaRiviere: If Wood can get back to the level of play he was at when he rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown in the opener against Zephyrhills, the Gators have a good chance in this one. Land O’Lakes, 24-20
Ridgewood (1-4, 1-1) at Anclote (0-4, 0-2)
Breakdown: The Sharks remain winless but are poised for their first win. No one has played mighty Pasco closer than Anclote, which has some of the district’s top athletes. Ridgewood picked up a much-needed victory last week by knocking off Gulf. But Will Fulmer and the Rams will have a tougher foe this week.
Who’s hot: Ridgewood’s rushing game. RB Elton Grigley is among the North Suncoast’s leaders with 441 rushing yards, and Tyler Vito had an 8-yard touchdown rush last week. …Anclote DB Keshaun Dampier, who had 15 tackles in last week’s loss to Pasco, and RB Willie Barrett, who has three touchdown runs during a solid junior season.
Baker: Anclote has too many athletes and too many weapons to stay down. The Sharks will finally break through against Ridgewood. Anclote, 28-24
LaRiviere: Despite going 0-4 and getting shut out by Pasco, the Sharks have averaged 15 points per game. The improvement of QB John Forgione and Barrett make Anclote dangerous on every play. Anclote, 31-7
Cornerstone Charter Academy (2-3) at Bishop McLaughlin (3-2), 7
Baker: The run-heavy Ducks will run into problems with a stout Hurricane defense and an improving offense. Bishop McLaughlin, 21-7
LaRiviere: This will be a good chance for R.J. Perciaville to showcase just how far he has come as the leader of the Hurricane offense. Bishop McLaughlin, 52-0
Mount Dora (3-2, 1-1) at Weeki Wachee (1-3, 0-2)
Baker: Marcus Allen and the Hornets don’t have enough to hang with a solid Class 4A, District 4 team. Mount Dora, 28-10
LaRiviere: The Hornets will need to shut down the passing game led by Bobby LaRouca, who is averaging nearly 140 yards per game and hasn’t thrown an interception this season. Between injuries and turnovers, Weeki Wachee is still feeling out its offense. Mount Dora, 31-0
Zephyrhills (2-2, 2-0) at Gulf (0-4, 0-2)
Baker: The Bulldogs are getting healthy, and their athletes are gearing up for a possible playoff run. Zephyrhills, 42-6
LaRiviere: Zephyrhills’ run-happy offense provides different threats, all of which could break it for a touchdown at any time. Willie Williams ran for 386 yards and four touchdowns in the past two weeks. Zephyrhills, 49-0
Tampa Bay Tech (3-2, 1-0) at Wiregrass Ranch (0-4, 0-1)
Baker: The rebuilding Bulls are getting better but are a long way from challenging one of the area’s most athletic teams. TBT, 38-7
LaRiviere: Wiregrass QB Shane Bucenell had some expectations heaped on him prior to the season, but the competition has been tough, and he hasn’t gotten the support to be successful in his sophomore campaign. TBT, 42-0
Hernando (2-3, 2-0) at River Ridge (1-3, 0-2), 7:30 p.m.
Baker: The Royal Knights have had a rough year but have the potential to upset Hernando if the Leopards aren’t prepared. This one will be closer than you might expect. Hernando, 28-27
LaRiviere: The Leopards are struggling to get Tyrail Hawkins the ball and won’t be anywhere near as dangerous offensively until they do. He’s averaging 12 touches per games over the past four after getting 28 in the opener. If the ship is going to be righted, this is a good opportunity. Hernando, 31-21
Pasco (4-0, 2-0) at Wesley Chapel (1-3, 0-2), 7:30 p.m.
Baker: Injuries and suspensions have made a nearly impossible upset bid even tougher for the Wildcats. Pasco, 45-7
LaRiviere: Pasco’s domination should continue this week as Wesley Chapel, despite being improved from last season, doesn’t have the firepower on either side of the ball to hang with David Emmanuel, Jajuan Henry and Joey Ivie. Pasco, 52-6
Springstead (5-0, 2-0) at Central (1-4, 0-2), 7:30 p.m.
Baker: The Eagles have shown they’re the team to beat in Class 6A, District 6, and won’t have a problem against Central. Springstead, 42-6
LaRiviere: The Eagles run well, pass well, play the run well, play the pass well, kick well and tackle well on special teams. There is no specific weakness, and because of that, the Bears will be lucky to get past midfield against Springstead’s first string. Springstead, 38-0
Fivay (3-1, 2-0) at Hudson (1-3, 1-1), 7:30 p.m.
Baker: The Falcons’ offense is soaring, behind Pasco County’s No. 2 passer (Tyler Degen), No. 1 receiver (Andrew Meyer), and Davion Sutton, who’s tied with Eddie Burgos for the county’s leading rusher (525 yards). Fivay, 42-10
LaRiviere: The Falcons have hit their stride. A battle with rival Hudson will only continue that run. Look for Fivay to come out of this game with more confidence and hunger than the team has had all season. Fivay, 49-0