It's early, but for several Tampa squads the action becomes extra-meaningful this week. Due to the nine-team behemoth that is Class 5A, District 8, one that contains three Pinellas County schools, district play gets going in Week 2 for several schools.
That renders our first three matchups here a notch above the rest. But at the same time, this week also has Hillsborough and Plant taking interesting road trips.
Toss in a neighborhood rivalry and, well, Week 2 of the prep football season is pretty cool.
All games Friday at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
Jesuit at Middleton
Last week: Jesuit lost to Plant 18-0; Middleton lost to Hillsborough 38-0.
Why you should go: To see a pair of Tigers' squads eager to find their way onto the scoreboard, and get a leg up in the 5A-8 race. Jesuit should find the going easier than against that brutish Plant defense.
Robinson at Dunedin
Last week: Robinson defeated Jefferson 58-21; Dunedin lost to Tarpon Springs 24-7
Why you should go: To catch one of the most, if not THE most, dynamite offenses in the bay area. Robinson's Zain Gilmore is a threat throwing the ball, but the Knights also compiled more than 250 yards on the ground in a beatdown of Jefferson. Martin Ruiz ran for about half of those. And the defense is good, too.
Blake at Lakewood
Last week: Blake defeated Leto 37-6; Lakewood defeated Seminole 46-0.
Why you should go: Lakewood is really fun to watch with QB Tracy Johnson and WR Rodney Adams, who unexpectedly played last week when he was supposed to miss time with an injury. Blake put up nearly 300 yards rushing with DeAndre James leading the way. The Spartans fully expect to make the postseason.
Hillsborough at Cocoa
Last week: Hillsborough defeated Middleton 38-0; Cocoa lost to St. Joseph's Prep (Pa.) 16-7.
Why you should go: Simple admiration for Hillsborough scheduling this tough of a game. In fact, these teams take the prize for scheduling. Cocoa had a "down" year last season, falling in the region finals after winning three consecutive state titles. The Cocoa team last week played a Philadelphia power, after taking on (and beating) last year's 3A champ American Heritage in the preseason.
Tampa Catholic at Zephyrhills
Last week: TC defeated Bayshore 31-6; Zephyrhills lost to Land O'Lakes 38-27
Why you should go: For Crusader fans who have never been to a game at Zephyrhills, this is a must. The Bulldogs have one of the most fervent home atmospheres, complete with literal tailgating as folks back up their rides (plenty of them pickup trucks) around the outside of the track to watch the game. On the field should be fun, too. But for the hosts, the going may be tough if injured RB Willie Williams (leg) can't suit up.
Tampa Bay Tech at King
Last week: TBT defeated Newsome 34-10; King lost to Wharton 27-7.
Why you should go: Anyone who knows anything about east Tampa geography realizes how close these schools are to one another. For the longest time, they did not meet up. But now, smartly, they're on each other's schedule. Should be plenty of TBT fans in the stands to see an impressive group that shut down Newsome last week. Deon Thompson ran for two scores but King should be more wary when it kicks the ball away, as the Titans ran a punt and a kickoff back for scores.
Jefferson at Newsome
Last week: Jefferson lost to Robinson 58-21; Newsome lost to TBT 34-10.
Why you should go: It doesn't make sense that these teams face off, considering they're not district foes. But it seems that when they do, a wild game always arises. Talented QBs Deiondre Porter (Jefferson) and Will Worth should have much better outings than their first, and something like a 35-34 final could be the result.
Plant at John Curtis Christian (La.), 8:30 p.m. Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Last week: Plant defeated Jesuit 18-0; John Curtis defeated St. Paul (La.) 26-7
WHAT'S IN STORE: Plant takes on a 24-time Louisiana state champ whose coach is so legendary, they named the school after him. John Curtis (the team, not the coach) had an interesting last week, having its Friday game scrapped due to travel concerns over Hurricane Isaac. But Covington school St. Paul agreed to play the Patriots last Saturday. After an understandably shaky first half, Curtis prevailed 26-7. The Patriots simply are sound, disciplined and athletic. Kinda like Plant.