Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Armwood-Jefferson to meet in pivotal prep matchup

There are some marquee high school football matchups this week, but none is bigger than the clash in West Tampa between Jefferson and Armwood.

No one would be surprised if these two teams end up meeting in the second round of the playoffs. But both squads have their eyes on a district title, which would bring with it a first-round playoff game on their home field.

All games kick off at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

Armwood (4-0, 3-0 in 6A-8) at Jefferson (3-0, 2-0)

Last week: Armwood defeated Robinson 27-0; Jefferson was idle.

Why you should go: This will be the ultimate test of big-time defense (that would be Armwood) against the high-flying Dragons, led by quarterback Deiondre Porter. This might be too much of a task for Jefferson to pull it off, but don't miss the chance to witness it in person. And by the way, though the loser will still be in good shape for a playoff berth, since both have already beaten the presumed third-strongest team, Hillsborough, a win could prove vital. That's because the team that finishes second in the district will have to hit the road in the playoffs to take on a really good team, either Largo or Venice.

Plant (3-0) at Tampa Bay Tech (2-1)

Last week: Plant defeated Bloomingdale 50-40; Tampa Bay Tech defeated Wiregrass Ranch 32-0

Why you should go: To see if Plant continues on its annual path, which is to look overmatched in its preseason game against a nationally ranked team and then gradually come on like gangbusters as the season progresses. The Plant defense raised some concern last week by allowing 40 points. But on the plus side, they amassed a school-record 519 passing yards by Colby Brown. Jordan Reed caught 14 passes for 240 yards. The going should be tougher against a more staunch defensive group.

Jesuit (1-3) at Newsome (3-1)

Last week: Jesuit defeated Largo 34-14; Newsome defeated Alonso 38-26

Why you should go: Lithia is lovely this time of year, and it's home to a very sound squad. But that's nothing new for the Tigers' loaded predistrict schedule. Newsome ran for 300 yards in the second half of its win over Alonso last week, but the Wolves did give up more than 300 yards passing and a pair of 100-yard rushing performances.

King (3-1, 1-1 in 6A-8) at Blake (2-2, 2-1)

Last week: King lost to Chamberlain 14-0; Blake defeated Lennard 46-6.

Why you should go: You gotta give the Yellow Jackets some love, fans. For two weeks in a row, Blake has scored more than 40 points and the defense has not allowed a point (Lennard's score last week was on a kick return). To be above .500 at the midpoint would be quite an achievement, and that now looks possible as the Lions come in after a shaky shutout.

Lennard (0-4, 0-3 in 6A-8) at Hillsborough (1-2, 1-2)

Last week: Lennard lost to Blake 46-6; Hillsborough defeated Leto 57-3.

Why you should go: The Terriers' only chance at a playoff spot is if the Armwood-Jefferson loser also gets beaten down the road by someone else. But Hillsborough is still a fun team to watch, and its fans can expect plenty of trips to the end zone, much like last week.

Leto (0-3, 0-3) at Robinson (0-4, 0-2)

Last week: Leto lost to Hillsborough 57-3; Robinson lost to Armwood 27-0

Why you should go: It has been a rough go for the Knights. But then again, just about every other team in the state would be 0-4 if they played the same schedule. Look for Robinson to finally reach the win column against an overmatched Falcons group.

Riverview (1-2) at Middleton (0-3)

Last week: Riverview lost to Wharton 41-14; Middleton was idle.

Why you should go: The Tigers need the support because of their rough start. But it's by no means a lost cause. Middleton's losses have been by an average of merely a touchdown. And remember, the Tigers have yet to play a district game. Peering at the schedule, there are wins to be had, and down the road a playoff spot.

Tampa Catholic (3-1) at Cardinal Mooney (3-0), 7 p.m.

Last week: TC defeated Fort Meade 39-13; Cardinal Mooney defeated Avon Park 28-0.

Why you should go: To see another tough test against an out-of-county opponent. Tampa Catholic had an overwhelming second half last week after being tied with district foe Fort Meade. The rout was started by a Bentlee Sanders punt return. Running back TJ Harrell simply manned up on his two touchdown runs, and the Crusaders wore down a talented team with a thin bench. Mooney is a former district rival of the Crusaders, but now the Cougars have the luxury of being in an almost-guaranteed playoff spot. There are only three teams in District 3A-6, and one of them is a relative newcomer — Out-of-Door Academy. Mooney has been very solid thus far and boasts a balanced attack. Another convincing TC win here and Crusaders fans can start thinking big.

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