Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Expect a wild matchup when Durant takes on Wharton

NEW TAMPA — It's still early, but as of right now, it's the North of Tampa area's Game of the Year.

Sure, it's not even the midway point of the season, it's not a district game and the contest doesn't involve Plant, Armwood or Hillsborough.

But tonight, Durant is bringing its 3-0 record and stifling defense to New Tampa to face Wharton, also undefeated at 3-0 with a standout passing game and enthusiastic Blue Crew student cheering section.

Durant, which is 3-0 for the first time since 2003, has yielded just one touchdown all season. The Wildcats, meanwhile, counter with quarterback Chase Litton (700-plus passing yards and seven TDs in three games) and wide receivers Keith Hopkins and Deon Sampson, who have combined for more than 400 yards receiving and four scores this season.

In other games involving area teams, undefeated Berkeley Prep hosts winless Lennard; Carrollwood Day School and Cambridge Christian travel to Pinellas County for important Class 2A, District 5 games; Freedom tries to continue a winning streak; and Sickles travels to face winless Brandon.

Gaither and Steinbrenner are off.

All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. unless noted.

Alonso (1-2) at Freedom (2-2)

Last week: Freedom defeated Steinbrenner 25-19; Alonso was off.

Why you should go: The Patriots have suddenly won two games in a row and leaped into a tie for first place in Class 7A-7. Alonso is trying to get to .500 before district play kicks in.

Sickles (2-1) at Brandon (0-3)

Last week: Brandon lost to Durant 36-0; Sickles defeated King 42-12.

Why you should go: Sickles' running back Ray Ray McCloud and quarterback Issac Holder are just sophomores. But they combined for 113 yards rushing and a touchdown and two touchdowns passing, respectively, last week. Imagine what might happen when they get more experience.

Newsome (1-3) at Chamberlain (1-2)

Last week: Newsome defeated East Bay 30-22; Chamberlain lost to Tampa Bay Tech 22-12.

Why you should go: To check out a matchup of different, yet equally effective running games. Newsome is led by quarterback Will Worth, who ran the ball 20 times last week and scored two touchdowns. Chamberlain counters with the dazzling Xavier Johnson (229 yards this season, 4 TDs), who is a threat to score almost every time he touches the ball.

Durant (3-0) at Wharton (3-0)

Last week: Durant defeated Brandon 36-0; Wharton was off.

Why you should go: How often is a North of Tampa-area team undefeated by this point of the season? Throw in Wharton quarterback Chase Litton, do-it-all player Vernon Har-greaves and the fanatical Wharton student section, and a good time should be had by all. That is, unless Durant running backs Chris Atkins and Jamarlon Hamilton (580 yards and 12 TDs combined this season) get loose and spoil the festivities.

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

Last week: Hillsborough defeated Strawberry Crest 32-24; Leto lost to Armwood 49-0.

Why you should go: To see just how gutsy Leto's kids are. A week after going up against state-ranked Armwood in their 6A-8 district opener, the Hawks travel to play equally potent Hillsborough. Before wondering if Hillsborough will top Armwood's 49 points against Leto, let's ask this: Why exactly is Leto in a district with powerhouses Armwood, Hillsborough and Jefferson?

Lennard (0-4) at Berkeley Prep (4-0)

Last week: Berkeley Prep defeated Orlando Lake Highland Prep 24-23; Lennard lost to Robinson 63-6.

Why you should go: Because Berkeley Prep can play with anybody. The Bucs' second-straight road win last week featured a 10-point fourth quarter rally. This season also has seen the Bucs beat a 5A squad on the road and pound a perennial 2A playoff participant. Show up just to see what Berkeley Prep will do next.

Carrollwood Day School (4-0, 2-0 in 2A-5) at Admiral Farragut (4-0, 2-0)

Last week: CDS defeated Shorecrest Prep 22-0; Admiral Farragut defeated Keswick Christian 41-7.

Why you should go: To see who will win the 2A-5 de facto championship game. Anything can happen from this point, but whoever wins this game has the edge on the district crown and first-round playoff game at home. Not to mention that it's a matchup of pretty good private school squads.

Cambridge (3-1, 2-1 in 2A-5) at Indian Rocks Christian (2-1, 2-1 in 2A-5)

Last week: Cambridge defeated Northside Christian 48-21; IRC defeated Bradenton Christian 20-13.

Why you should go: Whoever wins this game vaults into second place in the competitive 2A-5 race. Plus, at 3-1, Cambridge is halfway toward a program-best six wins of a season ago and a possible first-ever playoff berth.

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