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Friday night (and Saturday) football picks

Friday's games

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All games at 7:30 unless noted

Gaither (3-4, 1-0) at Wesley Chapel (3-4, 0-1)

The Wildcats are coming off a victory against one-win Sunlake, but have struggled with all the tough opponents from Pasco to Land O'Lakes to Wharton and even Zephyrhills. Gaither brings Tennessee commit Jarvis Giles, who is coming off a three-touchdown, 158-yard performance. Giles rushed for three touchdowns and 167 yards in last season's 34-9 Homecoming win over the Wildcats.

Izzy Gould's pick: Gaither, 24-14. The Wildcats are capable of winning this game, but history could repeat itself.

Joey Knight's pick: Wesley Chapel, 20-16. At last, the Wildcats get over the Hillsborough hump.

Wharton (5-2, 1-0) at Mitchell (4-2, 0-1)

The Wildcats, winners of five in a row, are among the hottest teams in Hillsborough County. Nonetheless, Mitchell can make a game of this, but only if the Mustangs convert in the red zone. In their 14-3 loss to Gaither, they scored three points on four trips inside the Cowboys 25.

IG: Wharton, 21-13. The Mustangs have improved a ton since the spring, but Wharton has more experience and the Class 5A, District 5 title in its sights.

JK: Wharton, 20-17. Another near-miss for the Mustangs

Land O'Lakes (4-2, 1-1) at Central (3-3, 1-1)

Central's best chance might be to run Austin Forte — who is averaging more than 5 yards a carry — behind his behemoth offensive line in an effort to control the ball and keep Stevie Weatherford off the field. Weatherford has thrown for 814 yards and has more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five). But he has a pair of favorite targets in Alex Robinson and James Tello and with another district title and playoff berth a reality, this would be a prime time for the passing game to flourish.

IG: Land O'Lakes, 21-14. The Gators proved me wrong in their win over Tarpon, so I'm a believer again.

JK: Land O'Lakes, 20-14. Bears resort to ball control to keep this one close.

Tarpon Springs (4-2, 1-1) at Ridgewood (3-3, 1-1)

Ridgewood is catching the Spongers at an absolutely awful time. Tarpon has dropped two heartbreakers in a row — by eight total points — and likely will be seething. Here's something that should make the Rams seethe: Spongers coach George Kotis is a Gulf alumnus.

IG: Tarpon Springs, 24-21. Ridgewood is one-dimensional with Sterling Ross. That just might be enough.

JK: Tarpon Springs, 33-14. Spongers get back on track in a big way.

Springstead (5-1, 2-0) at River Ridge (0-6, 0-2)

The Eagles, seeking their first 6-1 start since 2004, have not allowed a point since Sept. 26 and have shut out three opponents. Tonight very well could be shutout No. 4.

IG: Springstead, 35-0. As good as River Ridge might be, the Royal Knights are still winless and were shut out last week by Hudson.

JK: Springstead, 34-3. Eagles narrowly miss fourth shutout of the season.

Nature Coast (6-0, 2-0) at Citrus (1-5, 1-0)

Citrus always plays Nature Coast tough, and as district games go this could be a trap for the Sharks. The Hurricanes give up big points but they also put up a lot, averaging 25.5 per game. The Sharks need this one to stay ahead in Class 3A, District 6. A loss could jeopardize their district title hopes.

IG: Nature Coast, 44-10. Nature Coast stays strong heading into next week's district finale against Hernando.

JK: Nature Coast, 41-0. Bonus prediction: a running clock at some point in the second half

Pasco (5-1, 2-0) at Sunlake (1-5, 0-2)

Pasco spent its bye week preparing for the stretch run, beginning tonight with the Seahawks. Pirates coach Tom McHugh watched at least three Sunlake games and insists he's not overlooking either of the next two opponents before a potential Class 3A, District 8 title game against Gulf on Nov. 7 in Dade City.

IG: Pasco, 32-8. The Pirates should have little trouble taking care of a key district game.

JK: Pasco, 27-14. Pirates, looking ahead to the Gulf showdown, give a sluggish performance.

Wiregrass Ranch (0-6, 0-2) at Zephyrhills (2-4, 1-1)

The Bulls play back-to-back games at Zephyrhills and Pasco beginning tonight. That's a tall order for a Wiregrass team that has improved losing by eight points or less in its last two games. But is it enough to overthrow the Bulldogs on the night they retire Ryan Pickett's number? Put that aside, and it's hard to see the Bulls getting their first win of the season in Bulldog Stadium even if the Bulldogs are depleted. Looking for a reference, remember Wesley Chapel's 28-0 loss here Oct. 3.

IG: Zephyrhills, 21-10. With Pickett in the house and on the Bulldogs' home turf this one has to go to Zephyrhills. Right?

JK: Wiregrass Ranch, 16-14. Bulls, who have shown signs of life in their last two games, are due.

Hernando (2-4, 0-1) at Lecanto (1-6, 0-2)

With a victory, the Leopards improve on their 2007 win total and keep their playoff hopes mathematically alive. Here's some far more simpler math: Hernando has totaled 22 points in its past four games.

IG: Hernando, 14-10. The Leopards get their third win to snap a four-game losing streak.

JK: Hernando, 19-6. Leopards could use this confidence boost

Hernando Christian (7-0) at Winter Garden Foundation (2-3), 7 p.m.

Want to see arguably the primary reason for the Lions' success? Take a look at its offensive line, featuring 300-pound tight end Garrett Mikkola. No wonder the lines achieve run-pass balance so effectively.

IG: HCA, 35-3. The Lions would be a fun team to watch in the playoffs.

JK: HCA, 30-7. The Lions have spent all season laying a foundation. Tonight, they destroy one.

Bishop McLaughlin (3-3) at Bradenton St. Stephen's (4-2), 4:30

The Hurricanes have a three-game win streak, but run into a St. Stephen's team coming off a 59-0 win over Carrollwood Day.

IG: St. Stephen's, 21-17. Hurricanes' winning streak comes to a halt.

JK: St. Stephen's, 37-12. At least the Hurricanes' road trip won't be stifled by World Series traffic.

Saturday's game

Hudson (2-4, 1-1) at Gulf (6-0, 2-0), 7:30 p.m.

The Cobras will make a contest of this because a) this game essentially is their season, and b) it's a rivalry game. In the end, though, Bucs tailback Bubba Golden will be the difference, flourishing against a defense that has proven vulnerable against the run. The Gators have had two weeks to savor a 24-22 win at Tarpon Springs.

IG: Gulf, 35-30. Hudson shows up big in big games. I expect the same, though the Bucs will win.

JK: Gulf, 36-21. If he keeps his grades up, Golden soon will be playing on Saturdays every week.

Friday night (and Saturday) football picks 10/23/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 26, 2008 1:00pm]
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