With the first week of regular-season football upon us, we take a look at some of Friday night's matchups that will go a long way in deciding who comes out on top this season.
Palm Harbor University's Sean Shelton vs. Tarpon Springs' Danny Reyes
Shelton and Reyes, both seniors, are the veteran quarterbacks in a county where most programs are breaking in first-time starters.
Shelton, a four-year starter, is the most experienced. He is trying to lead the Hurricanes to their first winning season and playoff berth. It is a tough task considering PHU lost several players in the offseason. Lineman Chaz Green and receiver Jordan Jones transferred to Tampa Catholic and receiver Matt McNeely broke his leg this summer and is out until midseason. Shelton also has to face a Spongers secondary that is adept at picking off passes.
Reyes, a three-year starter, led Tarpon Springs to a 6-4 record last season. Most of Reyes' receivers return, notably Bobby Vavlas, Drew Kier and Josiah Fisk. Reyes also has a veteran offensive line and a good stable of running backs.
The game is important to both quarterbacks with many college scouts from smaller Division I schools expected to attend.
Dunedin's Darius Bellamy vs. Boca Ciega's defense
Last season, Bellamy ran through and around defenders on his way to a school-record 1,950 yards and 22 touchdowns. But in the season opener last season he was stopped in his tracks by a Pirates defense that held him to 34 yards on 12 carries.
Boca Ciega had success because it noticed Bellamy tensed up whenever he was getting the ball and was more relaxed whenever he didn't. Bellamy has fixed that glitch in his game and will benefit from running behind an offensive line that returns four starters, counting the tight end.
The Pirates' defense still is solid, led by lineman Julius Forte. Last week, Boca Ciega recorded seven sacks in a preseason game against Blake.
Lakewood's speed vs. Gibbs' speed
This rivalry game could turn into a track meet. After all, most of the skill players are sprinters.
The Spartans return nearly everyone who scored a touchdown last season. Jacquez Jenkins will be the quarterback after a strong showing in the spring. He has plenty of targets with Bernard Reedy, Victor Perkins and Frank Minton.
The Gladiators lost most of their skill players. But coach Yusuf Shakir is confident in the newcomers, especially after Gibbs placed high in several seven-on-seven tournaments this summer.
Josh Rembert is the starting quarterback. Jarvis West is the biggest playmaker as a runner or receiver.
Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected]