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Friday night football picks

Friday's games

All games at 7:30 unless noted

Gulf (7-0, 3-0) at Zephyrhills (3-4, 2-1)

A victory assures Gulf of the second playoff berth in program history, but coach Jay Fulmer doesn't think it will come easy. He's fearful of the undersized Bulldogs' speed, especially when they get out on the edge. The Bulldogs are coming off a nice win over Wiregrass Ranch on a night they welcomed home former star Ryan Pickett. But Gulf is no Wiregrass Ranch. The last nasty running back Zephyrhills had to deal with was Pasco's Jamall Haynes, and he carved up the Bulldogs offense to the tune of 218 yards and two touchdowns. Gulf running back Bubba Golden is averaging 229 per game.

Izzy Gould's pick: Gulf, 35-6. The Bucs have been a scoring machine all season, and a good defensive team as well.

Joey Knight's pick: Gulf, 36-14. Last week's Hudson game provided a revelation: the Bucs' passing game isn't bad either.

Ridgewood (3-4, 1-2) at Springstead (4-2, 2-1)

The Eagles were on the losing end of one of the worst upsets in North Suncoast history last week after falling to River Ridge 31-14. As Eagles coach Bill Vonada puts it, "We lost our safety net." A playoff berth once looked like a sure thing. Now Springstead is in a three-way district tie with Tarpon Springs and Land O'Lakes with tonight's game and next week's against the Spongers still at hand. The Rams have an excellent running back in Sterling Ross (1,347 yards), but few other threats on offense they lean on. The Eagles looked at last week's loss as one heck of a wakeup call.

IG: Springstead, 21-20. The Rams have lost two straight, but tonight is as big as any playoff game.

JK: Springstead, 34-13. Sobered Eagles bounce back in a huge way.

Wiregrass Ranch (0-7, 0-3) at Pasco (6-1, 3-0)

The Pirates have posted back-to-back shutouts and look primed for next week's Class 3A, District title showdown with Gulf. First, the Pirates must deal with Wiregrass Ranch and coach Ricky Thomas, a Pasco alumnus making his return to Dade City as the Bulls' varsity coach. Pasco reached out to its former star player and coach last season at Wiregrass where they presented him with his framed high school jersey to honor him. He might not feel so honored tonight at Pasco's Homecoming celebration. Most teams see that as an insult considering teams traditionally schedule weaker opponents in hopes of a good outcome. The Bulls offense has struggled most of the season, scoring seven or fewer points in six of seven losses, and has been shut out twice. Pasco must win to keep its district title hopes alive.

IG: Pasco, 27-0. The thought of this Pirates team losing twice at home is hard to swallow. Three times would be absolutely stunning with Gulf coming to town next week.

JK: Pasco, 28-6. Forget the Ricky Thomas angle. Pirates need this game to all but seal a playoff berth. That's incentive enough.

Hernando (3-4, 1-1) at Nature Coast (7-0, 3-0)

Nature Coast, ranked for the first time in program history, clinches the Class 3A, District 6 title with a win. It also can match the program's longest win streak (eight games). …For all their struggles this year, the Leopards remain in playoff contention, but not if they lose tonight.

IG: Nature Coast, 28-6. A Leopards upset would completely ruin Nature Coast's season and re-energize the rivalry.

JK: Nature Coast, 35-8. Take my word — in two or three years, this will be a game worth seeing again.

Tarpon Springs (5-2, 2-1) at Central (3-4, 1-2)

A win tonight, and the Bears' mathematical playoff hopes get a huge boost. "We've still got life, so that helps things," Central coach Cliff Lohrey said. Lohrey's biggest concern about the Spongers? Quarterback Danny Reyes, who led his team to a 4-0 start. "He can make just about any throw that you'd like to see from a high school quarterback," Lohrey said.

IG: Tarpon Springs, 28-14. The Spongers are still in the playoff hunt. Central's playoff game is in two weeks against Nature Coast.

JK: Tarpon Springs, 27-13. Look for Reyes' throws to be as crisp as the weather.

River Ridge (1-6, 1-2) at Land O'Lakes (5-2, 2-1)

It's not often the Royal Knights have to remain wary of a letdown, but tonight is one of those times. River Ridge proved it can compete with nearly anyone around last week by shocking Springstead 31-14, but coach Tim Stevens doesn't want his players to consider that win their "Super Bowl." Now the Royal Knights coach faces his old team and mentor in Land O'Lakes. The Gators have a three-game winning streak going and the playoffs and perhaps a district title in their sights. The offense has come alive averaging 30 points in those wins, and quarterback Stevie Weatherford is coming off a three-touchdown, 271-yard performance having completed 15-of-18 passes in a 38-13 win against Central.

IG: Land O'Lakes, 34-7. The last time River Ridge had back-to-back wins was in 2003 so I'm using history as a guide.

JK: Land O'Lakes, 30-13. Like all the Knights' other foes, the Gators will come away from this game knowing River Ridge has turned the corner.

Hudson (2-5, 1-2) at Sunlake (1-6, 0-3)

Hudson's receivers, sure-handed but not terribly fast, couldn't make plays in space last week at Gulf because the Bucs defenders didn't provide them any. That shouldn't be a problem tonight. In game being waged purely for pride, look for Zack Wynn to connect often with Dylan Buono, Hunter Newton and Stephen Geidel.

IG: Hudson, 35-7. The Cobras suffered an embarrassing loss at Gulf last Saturday night. Someone's got to pay for it.

JK: Hudson, 33-7. Cobras show a little pride tonight.

Mitchell (4-3) at Clearwater Central Catholic (4-4)

Mitchell defeated CCC 27-0 in 2007. …The Marauders, who upset an injury-riddled Tampa Catholic team in early September, have dropped three of their past four. …Mustangs sophomore Ricky Trinidad needs 121 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season.

IG: Mitchell, 28-20. CCC's defense gives up big points and the Mustangs have a goal of finishing 7-3.

JK: Mitchell, 30-14. We have strong reason to believe this is Scott Schmitz's final season as Mustangs coach, meaning his kids are going to play all out for him down the stretch.

Bishop McLaughlin (3-4) at Carrollwood Day (2-6), 4:30 p.m.

The Hurricanes are coming off a tough three-point loss to St. Stephen's. And perhaps there's no better remedy than facing Carrollwood Day, a team that is on a three-game losing streak and has been outscored in those games 151-12.

IG: BM, 14-10. The Hurricanes get back on the winning track.

JK: BM, 22-12. Carrollwood is struggling in its first year of 11-on-11 football.

St. Petersburg Canterbury (4-3) at Hernando Christian (8-0), Saturday, 7 p.m.

According to HCA coach David Raley, a win gives the Lions the South Division crown in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, and a berth in the Nov. 15 conference title game at The Villages. …The Crusaders, according to Raley, run a "spin" offense, which essentially is a single-wing, shotgun formation featuring a litany of reverses and counters. They're coming off a one-point win over Mount Dora Bible, a team the Lions topped by 22.

IG: HCA, 35-15. Another Saturday night and the North Suncoast has a football game. The Lions keep on roaring en route to the conference championship game.

JK: HCA, 34-16. See you at The Villages, Lions.

Friday night football picks 10/30/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 1, 2008 2:58pm]

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