MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
All games at 7:30 Friday unless noted
Clearwater Central Catholic at East Lake
The breakdown: This is the most anticipated season opener in the county with both teams capable of making deep runs in the playoffs. Neither team revealed much in last week’s preseason games. Last year, the Eagles had to rally late and hold on for the victory. The Marauders still lament the one that got away and will continue to rely on their strong running game and defense. East Lake has the passing game to stay with anyone but needs its defense to step up to prevent a shootout.
Rodney Page’s pick: Both teams should be able to throw it around, I just think East Lake can do it a little better. East Lake 35-28.
Bob Putnam’s pick: DiNovo and Co. get it done on offense. East Lake 28-24.
Bradenton Southeast at Largo
The breakdown: Lost in the hoopla of CCC-East Lake is a darn good matchup between the Seminoles and Packers, who both made the playoffs a year ago. Largo stumbled against Southeast in its season opener in 2011 before going on to win eight of its final nine regular-season games. The Seminoles have the speed to stay with the Packers. The key will be how Largo’s revamped line holds up on both sides of the ball.
Rodney Page’s pick: Preface this by saying Largo will have a good season, but Southeast always seems to be too much. Southeast 24-20.
Bob Putnam’s pick: The Packers show more balance this time. Largo 21-20.
Gibbs at St. Petersburg
The breakdown: Gibbs actually won this game last season, though the record books give the win to St. Petersburg because Gibbs used an ineligible player. Both teams lost their preseason games, so neither is heading into the regular season with a head of steam. Both teams have skill players, so expect plenty of offense. The key to this non-conference, intra-city matchup should depend on the defense.
Rodney Page’s pick: St. Petersburg has plenty of depth and will eventually wear out the Gladiators. St. Petersburg 28-14.
Bob Putnam’s pick: Green Devils will not need a forfeit to win this time. St. Petersburg 17-12.
Countryside at Boca Ciega
The breakdown: The Cougars have won 25 straight regular-season games and three straight against the Pirates in season openers. Countryside looked good against Lakewood in the preseason, scoring on three of its first four drives. Boca Ciega has kept it close in two of the past three meetings against the Cougars.
Rodney Page’s pick: Countryside has too much size, depth and speed. Cougars 35-7.
Bob Putnam’s pick: Cougars have too much experience on both sides of the ball. Countryside 31-10.
Tarpon Springs at Dunedin
The breakdown: Both teams made some noise in last week’s preseason games. The Spongers upset Miami Gulliver Prep while the Falcons tied Pinellas Park in varsity play. Expect a low-scoring game with both teams relying on strong running games.
Rodney Page’s pick: The Falcons looked pretty good last week. Dunedin 21-13.
Bob Putnam’s pick: Falcons now have a defense to go with run game. Dunedin 16-14.
Palm Harbor University at Clearwater
The breakdown: With a tough schedule, the Hurricanes need a win to get off to a fast start. The Tornadoes need to find a way to protect their quarterback after allowing a combined 17 sacks in the spring and preseason games.
Rodney Page’s pick: Palm Harbor U. is very disciplined and should be able to grind through the Tornadoes. PHU 28-7.
Bob Putnam’s pick: ’Canes show last season was not a fluke. PHU 21-14.
Shorecrest at Northside Christian
The breakdown: The “Ex-Buc’’ Bowl. Shorecrest coach Dave Moore and Northside coach Mike Alstott make their coaching debuts against each other. Both are trying to resurrect their programs. Both have small rosters. Both are a long way from Raymond James Stadium. But a win gets things off on the right foot.
Rodney Page’s pick: Shorecrest seems to have a little bit more skill and depth. Chargers 17-14.
Bob Putnam’s pick: Dave Moore gets the upper hand on his former teammate. Shorecrest 34-21.
Northeast at Dixie Hollins
The breakdown: Dixie Hollins took a beating last week against CCC, losing all three quarterbacks to injury. The Rebels will have starting QB Drew Boylson back for the opener. Northeast lost two defensive starters to injury last week as well. But it still has explosive offensive players.
Rodney Page’s pick: Have a feeling Vikings quarterback Ryan Davis will have a big night. Northeast 31-24.
Bob Putnam’s pick: Rebels’ running game too much for the Vikings to handle. Dixie Hollins 27-21.
Seminole at Lakewood
The breakdown: A potential upset. Last year, the Warhawks led throughout most of the game before allowing the Spartans to rally in the fourth quarter. Seminole will try to keep Lakewood’s playmakers off the field by using a ball-control offense. The Spartans are looking for something positive after blowout losses to Lakeland and Countryside, respectively, in the spring and preseason games.
Rodney Page’s pick: Lakewood has tons of potential and needs to show it against Seminole. Lakewood 27-7.
Bob Putnam’s pick: Tempted to go with the upset, but the Spartans are too talented. Lakewood 24-16.
Pinellas Park at Osceola
The breakdown: The Patriots are looking to get their offense on track after settling for a 6-6 varsity tie against Dunedin in the preseason. Osceola is glad to be back playing Pinellas County foes after getting routed by Bradenton Manatee, the nation’s No. 1 team, last week.
Rodney Page’s pick: Pinellas Park will grind out a win. Patriots 21-10.
Bob Putnam’s pick: The Patriots do just enough on the ground to win. Pinellas Park 28-12.
Admiral Farragut at Lakeland Victory Christian, 7
The breakdown: Beware of any team with Victory in its name. The Storm was 8-3 last season, so this will surely be a good test for the Blue Jackets. Admiral Farragut is loaded at running back and has experience at quarterback. The question will be how quickly the offensive and defensive lines can jell.
Rodney Page’s pick: AFA has been on a roll lately, and that likely won’t change in Lakeland. AFA 42-21.
Bob Putnam’s pick: Blue Jackets’ quest to return to state title game begins with a win. AFA 34-17.
Canterbury at Agape Christian, 7
The breakdown: Canterbury coach Bill Jones saw Agape play last season and was impressed. The Orlando-area school was 6-4 last season. It doesn’t help that Canterbury starting quarterback Christian Renner was lost for the season last week.
Rodney Page’s pick: Agape may just be too much. Agape 30-20.
Bob Putnam’s pick: Despite lack of depth, the Crusaders find a way. Canterbury 22-20.
Sarasota Out-of-Door at St. Petersburg Catholic, 7
The breakdown: The quest to erase memories of 2011’s 2-8 season begins tonight. The Barons appear to be much better stocked on the offensive line, which should allow FSU commit Ryan Green to run wild. If SPC can play some defense, this should be a much-improved team.
Rodney Page’s pick: SPC will gain tons of yards and get off to a good start. SPC 35-14.
Bob Putnam’s pick: Ryan Green gets the Barons off to a fast start. SPC 23-21.
Landmark Christian at Keswick Christian
The breakdown: The Crusaders are trying to win their third straight season opener and second straight over Landmark Christian. Last year, Keswick built a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and held on to win 17-14.
Rodney Page’s pick: Keswick should have enough offense to get past this one. Keswick 21-20.
Bob Putnam’s pick: The Crusaders continue their trend of fast starts. Keswick 28-14.