Times’ Super 7
1. East Lake (7-0, 3-0): The 47-3 victory over Countryside snapped the Eagles’ five-game losing streak in this rivalry and moved them closer to a playoff spot in Class 7A, District 9.
2. Largo (6-1, 2-0): The Packers’ ninth straight district title came in improbable fashion with two touchdowns in the final four minutes to pull out a 22-21 victory over Venice.
3. Clearwater Central Catholic (6-1, 3-0): Offense clicks with a barrage of big plays in a 47-23 victory over Calvary Christian that keeps the Marauders undefeated against Class 3A-5 opponents.
4. Pinellas Park (7-0, 3-0): As expected, the Patriots pounded Clearwater 55-6 to set up a showdown with East Lake for sole possession of first-place in 7A-9.
5. Lakewood (6-1, 3-0): The Spartans, who recorded their second straight shutout with a 53-0 win against Dunedin, have scored a combined 91 points the past two weeks.
6.Countryside (5-2, 2-1): Though they took one on the chin against East Lake, the Cougars can keep their playoff hopes alive with wins against Seminole and Pinellas Park the next two weeks.
7. Indian Rocks Christian (6-2, 5-0): Clinched the district title in Class 2A-5 with a 56-7 win over Cambridge Christian in which the Golden Eagles had three backs rush for more than 100 yards.
Top five performers
1. Jarvis Stewart, RB, Largo: His stats were not eye-popping (48 yards rushing, 27 receiving), but he made an impact in the Packers’ come-from-behind win, scoring on a short run and diving into the corner of the end zone on a two-point conversion for the winner at the end of regulation.
2. Damian King, ATH, Indian Rocks Christian: King was a monster against Cambridge Christian, scoring four touchdowns and gaining 210 yards on 13 carries. One of those touchdowns was for 71 yards.
3. Ra’Quanne Dickens, RB, Seminole: His 174 yards and three touchdowns gave the Warhawks enough of a cushion to hold on in a 22-20 victory over Northeast.
4. Maurice Hall, ATH, Gibbs: Statistically speaking, Hall had his best game of the season, rushing for 120 yards and scoring in a 23-17 victory over Boca Ciega that helped the Gladiators win for the third time in four games.
5. Weston Fordham, RB, East Lake: Fordham may sometimes get lost behind George Campbell and Artavis Scott, but he was a workhorse against Countryside. Fordham gouged the Countryside defense on 16 carries for 101 yards and three touchdowns.
Five keys to a comeback
Largo was down by two touchdowns in the final four minutes before rallying to beat Venice. Here are some moments that contributed to the Packers’ improbable victory.
1. Big breaks: In the first half, Venice had all the momentum. But the Indians blew their chance to put the game away with two missed field goals and two turnovers inside Largo’s 25-yard line. Instead of being ahead by more than two scores, Venice led just 7-0 at the half.
2. Defense: The Packers did a good job of containing Indians running back Terry Polk, who ranked fourth in the state in rushing yards entering the game. Polk gained 150 yards, 94 of which came in the first half. Take away a 60-yard run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and Polk had minus-4 yards rushing in the second half. On Venice’s final two drives, it gained 1 yard.
3. Clock management: Down by a touchdown, the Packers were out of timeouts when they turned the ball over on downs at Venice’s 11-yard line with 3:11 remaining. On the Indians’ final drive, they were called for a delay of game and called a timeout, stopping the clock twice. But the play of the game happened on third down when Polk took a pitch on a sweep and was driven out of bounds by Jarvis Stewart and a host of others. Had Polk stayed inbounds, Largo would not have had enough time to complete the Hail Mary at the end.
4. Big completion: On Largo’s final drive, quarterback Donavan Hale completed a 16-yard pass to Jonathan Crawford that moved the ball to Venice’s 31-yard line. Despite a false start on the following play, that completion gave Hale enough wiggle room to launch his desperation pass.
5. The penalty: In the chaos after Largo’s last-minute touchdown, the Indians were called for encroachment in an attempt to block the extra point. The penalty moved the ball to the 1 ½-yard line. The short distance was what motivated Packers coach Rick Rodriguez to go for the two-point conversion and the win.
The district champions: Bradenton Manatee (8A-7), Largo (6A-7) and Indian Rocks Christian (2A-5).
Who can clinch this week: East Lake wins the 7A-9 title with a win over Pinellas Park. The Lakewood-Tarpon Springs winner takes the 5A-8 title. And Clearwater Central Catholic wins 3A-5 with a victory over Admiral Farragut
Let the hype begin
Supremacy in Class 7A, District 9 and an undefeated season are at stake when Pinellas Park and East Lake meet Friday.
Both coaches have already started looking at film and preparing.
“I’ll start about two hours from now,’’ East Lake coach Bob Hudson said after Friday’s game against Countryside. “I can sleep in December.’’
The teams offer a contrast in offensive styles. East Lake is balanced, mixing in the run with pass in pro-set formations. Pinellas Park relies heavily on the ground game with the wing-T.
“We don’t see that very often,’’ Hudson said of the wing-T. “We saw it in our spring game, but that’s the last time. There aren’t too many teams that do it anymore. It can be tough to defend against.’’