MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
Friday’s football games
All at 7:30 p.m.
Hernando (4-4, 4-1) at Nature Coast (5-3, 4-1)
What’s at stake: Both teams’ playoff hopes. Nature Coast can win Class 6A, District 6 with a win Friday and a victory over Springstead next week. The Sharks could still make the postseason with a loss Friday but would need some help. Hernando would be guaranteed a playoff berth with a win Friday and a victory over Mitchell next week. A loss to the Sharks makes things murkier. Fans from both schools are encouraged to wear pink to promote breast cancer awareness.
Who’s hot: Leopards RB Jeremiah Jackson, who had his first 100-yard game of the season and finished with 109 of his team’s 218 yards and its only score in a 28-7 loss to Springstead. He also led the Leopards with 15 tackles. …NCT senior Dominique Rawlins had 10 solo tackles (three for a loss) and a highlight-reel run in a 32-0 win over Mitchell. LB Joey Berrios added 14 tackles, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
Matt Baker’s pick: NCT’s offense is gaining balance alongside star RB Matt Breida. A big pass play late will be the difference and help the Sharks earn an upset victory. NCT, 28-27
Derek J. LaRiviere’s pick: This game has a lot riding on it, but the Sharks are very similar to Springstead. The home-field atmosphere at the Shark Tank will only makes things more difficult to overcome for Hernando, whose defense will have its hands full with Breida. NCT, 31-13
Fivay (5-2, 4-1) at Zephyrhills (4-3, 4-1)
What’s at stake: The runnerup spot in Class 5A, District 6. The Falcons can clinch a second straight trip to the playoffs with a win and would likely take the No. 2 spot behind Pasco. Zephyrhills needs to beat Fivay to keep hopes of a three-way tie for the runner-up spot with the Falcons and Anclote alive.
Who’s hot: Fivay QB Tyler Degen, who threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s loss to Pasco. WR Andrew Meyer caught 163 of those yards. Zack Russell added an interception, and Brice Sesler had nine tackles and a fumble recovery. … Zephyrhills RB Willie Williams, who rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 37-35 win over Ridgewood. Zack Gleaton’s 35-yard field goal gave his team the victory
Baker: Fivay played heavyweight Pasco better than just about any team has in the past two seasons. Degen, TE Kevin Faulkner and the rest of the Falcons should bring confidence into a matchup with an athletic Zephyrhills team that’s looked vulnerable the past two weeks. Fivay, 42-35
LaRiviere: While it was thoroughly dominated by the Pirates, Fivay found a way to hang with its district rival for over a quarter of play, better than any other opponent this year. Confidence should help Fivay return to the playoffs. Fivay, 42-28
Mitchell (6-2, 3-2) at Springstead (8-0, 5-0)
What’s at stake: Springstead’s shot at a district title. The Eagles are Class 6A, District 6 champs with two more wins, or a win tonight and a Nature Coast loss. Mitchell’s playoff hopes are still alive, but they need to win out and get some help to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2004.
Who’s hot: Springstead’s defense and special teams, which scored on an interception by Pedro Estrada and a blocked punt return by Ricky Toth in a win over Hernando. RB Daniel Wright also rushed for 93 yards. … Mustangs LB Sammy Miller, who racked up 24 tackles (14 solo) in the loss to the Sharks. Beau Beck added 14 tackles, and Brandon Dubatowka recovered a fumble.
Baker: Mitchell could have hung with the Eagles, but injuries have piled up. Missing leading rusher Christian Trinidad and lineman Foster Artlip have made a tough task nearly impossible against an Eagles team that’s a legitimate North Suncoast power. Springstead, 31-7
LaRiviere: Combine the fact that it's Springstead's homecoming, the Mustangs are banged up, and the Eagles are two wins from finishing the season undefeated, and you've got the perfect storm for a blowout. The Eagles need to avoid penalties and turnovers. Springstead, 35-10
Ridgewood (1-7, 1-4) at Pasco (7-0, 5-0)
Baker: The Pirates have Tampa Bay’s highest-scoring offense and No. 2 scoring defense. And now they have a healthy Janarion Grant. Pasco will roll heading into next week’s 9-Mile War. Pasco, 52-6
LaRiviere: Despite the leaps Ridgewood has made since the beginning of the season, it would difficult to picture the team hanging for even a quarter with Pasco. Pasco, 56-0
River Ridge (2-5, 1-4) at Sunlake (5-2, 3-2)
Baker: QB Josh Maisel and his Royal Knights finally busted out of their slump with a blowout homecoming win over Central. But Ben Wood, Eddie Burgos and the Seahawks have too much talent and too much at stake – an outside shot at the playoffs – to knock off. Sunlake, 28-10
LaRiviere: The Royals Knights manhandled Central last week, but the Seahawks are no Bears. Despite being on the outside of the playoff picture, Sunlake is a formidable opponent with one of the best defenses on the North Suncoast. Sunlake, 24-10
Weeki Wachee (1-6, 0-5) at Interlachen (1-6, 0-4)
Baker: Interlachen has struggled this fall and represents Weeki Wachee’s best chance at another milestone – the school’s first district victory. Jacob Cimino, Kyle Keelan and the Hornets match up well, and they’ll enjoy a long trip home by relishing a win. Weeki Wachee, 28-27
LaRiviere: With Interlachen being the easiest opponent Weeki Wachee will see for the remainder of the schedule, this is the program's best shot at a second win. Everyone seems to be healthy and ready to go for the Hornets. Weeki Wachee, 21-20
Wiregrass Ranch (0-7, 0-3) at Steinbrenner (2-5, 0-3)
Baker: Ryan Shea, Shane Bucenell and the Bulls have their best opportunity for a district win. But Steinbrenner is still winless in Class 7A, District 7, too, and will come out firing. Steinbrenner, 28-13
LaRiviere: The Warriors’ record may not seem impressive but they've hung with some of the best that Hillsborough County has to offer, so the road to that first win won't get any easier for the Bulls. Steinbrenner, 34-6
Masters Academy (0-5) at Bishop McLaughlin (4-3)
Baker: The Hurricanes are starting to click with four wins in their past five games. QB RJ Perciavalle will help Bishop make it five victories in six games. Bishop McLaughlin, 35-7
LaRiviere: The winless Patriots have a limited schedule. After getting ripped in its last performance against Shorecrest, the Hurricanes will have all the motivation they need to bounce back with a total effort. Bishop McLaughlin, 56-0
Anclote (3-4, 3-2) at Wesley Chapel (2-5, 1-4)
Baker: The Sharks need a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. More realistically, John Forgione and his team are hunting the program’s first winning record. A victory tonight will get them closer. Anclote, 28-14
LaRiviere: The Sharks got off to a slow start last week after receiving a lot of praise for beating Zephyrhills two weeks ago. Anclote got things going eventually and wrapped up a lopsided win. The same should be true for its game against the Wildcats, who seem to be reeling. Anclote, 42-7
Hudson (2-5, 2-3) at Gulf (0-7, 0-5)
Baker: Gulf has had this game circled on its calendar since losing to Ridgewood last month. But RB Noah Siegrist and the Cobras are on a roll after upsetting Wesley Chapel last week and are making great progress under new coach Mark Kantor. Hudson, 31-13
LaRiviere: Kantor has the Cobras playing gritty, hard-nosed ball. If they continue to pound the ball with Siegrist, the Buccaneers will struggle to slow Hudson down. Not many would have thought that the Cobras had a shot at three wins this year, but Kantor has done well in a short time. Hudson, 35-14
Land O’Lakes (1-6, 0-5) at Central (1-7, 0-5)
Baker: The Gators have been bitten by injuries. But RB Harrison Wood and a Darius Wells-led defense that’s better than its record suggests will help snap a six-game losing streak. Land O’Lakes, 35-10
LaRiviere: This may be an opportunity for Land O'Lakes coach Brian Wachtel to see what he has in his underclassmen for next year. Sophomore James Pensyl has shown some promise as a playmaker under center. Land O’Lakes, 56-7