BRANDON — When asked what has been the main difference between this season's 3-0 Brandon team and years past, Eagles head coach John Lima didn't talk about what his players have done on the field. He didn't speak of their efforts in the weight room. He didn't mention extra time spent in the film room.
"It's been our study hall," Lima said. "No question about it."
Lima tightened the screws on a study hall program that helped raise the team's grade point average from 2.1 two years ago to 2.75 this season.
"We started making these guys accountable for what they are supposed to be doing," Lima said. "And let them know there will be consequences if what's asked of them is not met."
Lima isn't afraid to call out players for slip ups. He reads positive e-mails from teachers to the team after practice, and does the same when he gets negative feedback from instructors as well.
"I like (study hall)," senior linebacker Shawn Council said. "A lot of times we don't have time or are tired after practice, so this gives us a chance to get done what we're supposed to be doing."
The undefeated Eagles, who only lost nine seniors from last year's 3-7 team, have already matched their win total (three) from 2009, including last week's impressive 31-20 victory at Plant City. The Eagles have a good shot to make it four in a row when they host 0-2 East Bay tonight at 7:30.
"We weren't that far off last year," Lima said. "There were only two games last year where we weren't in it in the fourth quarter."
Plant City (2-1) at Newsome (1-2)
Last week: The Raiders lost to Brandon 31-20, and the Wolves beat Alonso 17-14.
Quick count: The two best teams in 5A-6 meet tonight in what should be the area's best game. Evenly matched, the winner of this should wind up district champ. Plant City quarterback Bennie Coney has been suspended for undisclosed reasons, and his absence makes a Raiders' win unlikely.
Father Lopez (0-3) at Seffner Christian (0-2)
Last week: Bronson defeated Father Lopez 8-7, and Cambridge Christian defeated the Crusaders 45-12.
Quick count: Something has to give here with both teams looking for their first win on the season. For the Crusaders, they're in search of their first win in school history. Lopez is 1-12 in its last 13 games dating to last year and hasn't had a winning season since 2005.
Durant (1-2) at Bloomingdale (1-1)
Last week: Jesuit defeated Durant 16-0, and the Bulls hammered Leto 49-0.
Quick count: It took 19 months, but second-year Bloomingdale coach John Booth finally got his first win — in a big way. After a winless 2009 season and a narrow 13-6 loss to Lennard in the opener, the Bulls steamrolled Leto 49-0 last week.
Blake (1-1) at Spoto (2-1)
Last week: The Yellow Jackets beat Steinbrenner 10-0, and the Spartans shut out East Bay 20-0.
Quick count: Spoto does more with less than any team around. The Spartans usually dress fewer than 30 players and most do double duty. But their defense brims with speed, and quarterback Nick Addison is a headache for any team.
Riverview (0-3) at Plant (2-1)
Last week: The Sharks lost to Lennard 42-28, and Abilene defeated Plant 27-17.
Quick count: The Sharks finally put some points on the board last Thursday, scoring 28 after back-to-back six point efforts in the first two weeks. The Sharks will be lucky to break double digits against Plant.
King (2-1) at Strawberry Crest (2-0)
Last week: The Lions lost 35-14 against Robinson, and the Chargers beat Keswick Christian 48-0.
Quick count: Strawberry Crest already has more wins (two) this season than all of last year (one). The second-year Chargers will be tested tonight after two weak opponents to open the season.
Wharton (1-2) at Armwood (2-0)
Last week: The Wildcats beat Gaither 10-0, and the Hawks defeated Tampa Bay Tech 38-6.
Quick count: If you're planning to attend the Hawks' game Friday, get there early. This one should be over by halftime.
Brandon Wright can be reached at email@example.com.