Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

North of Tampa area high school football previews for Oct. 25

NEW TAMPA

If last week's "Decision Friday" was the meal, just call this week's matchups solid leftovers.

The results and developments from many of last week's games are still reverberating.

Perhaps the biggest will be at Wharton, where the Wildcats aim to shake off an upset loss to Alonso that at best delayed securing a playoff spot. At worst, Wharton could lose and find itself .500 in district play and possibly in a four-way tie for a postseason berth with two weeks left in the season.

Meanwhile, state-ranked Sickles travels to Pasco County with a banged-up star in tailback Ray Ray McCloud to face Wiregrass Ranch. The mission is simple — add another Class 7A, District 7 win and get home with McCloud no worse for the wear. The junior running back, who leads the bay area with 1,329 rushing yards, suffered a knee injury in the win against Gaither.

Sickles coach Brian Turner said he expected McCloud to be okay and would evaluate him during the week to determine how much, if at all, he would play tonight.

In other key meetings tonight with implications in the playoff race, Alonso hosts Riverview while trying to stay in the 8A-6 race, Chamberlain travels to Jefferson with its 6A-8 hopes on life support. And in a game that lost some luster after Cambridge's loss last week, the Lancers host Carrollwood Day, which is trying to stay alive in the 2A-5 playoff chase.

And for something completely in the opposite direction, winless Lennard travels to winless Leto, where one team will secure its first win of the season — unless it's a tie.

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

Riverview (2-5, 0-3) at Alonso (4-3, 1-2)

Last week: Alonso defeated Wharton 33-15; Riverview lost to Bloomingdale 27-24.

Why you should go: An inspired effort by the Ravens kept faint playoff hopes alive. Alonso QB Chris Oladokun threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Wharton. With an Alonso win tonight (and a few other 8A-6 happenings), next week's Plant-Alonso matchup could have added meaning.

Chamberlain (4-4, 4-2) at Jefferson (6-1, 5-1)

Last week: Chamberlain lost to Robinson 13-12; Jefferson defeated King 40-16.

Why you should go: When the Chiefs look back on this season, a missed two-point conversion in the loss to Robinson may loom large. The Chiefs' 4-2 Class 6A, District 8 mark seems stellar until you look up at the 6-0, 5-1 and 5-2 league marks ahead of them.

Freedom (1-6, 0-3) at Steinbrenner (2-5, 1-2)

Last week: Freedom lost to Tampa Bay Tech 22-3; Steinbrenner defeated Wiregrass Ranch 27-20.

Why you should go: To see which of these two 7A-7 teams has the most fight left. Freedom is in the midst of a five-game losing streak and has just 36 points in that span. Steinbrenner, meanwhile, showed some grit last week in rallying from a 10-point deficit in the second half to earn its first league win of the year.

Tampa Bay Tech (6-1, 3-0) at Gaither (3-4, 1-2)

Last week: Tampa Bay Tech defeated Freedom 22-3; Gaither lost to Sickles 48-6.

Why you should go: A Tech win means the Titans and Sickles are in and Gaither is out of the playoffs. Also, a Tech win (and a Sickles win at Wiregrass Ranch) sets up a winner-take-all championship at Sickles next week. But forget all of that if Gaither wins tonight.

Lennard (0-8, 0-7) at Leto (0-7, 0-6)

Last week: Lennard lost to Armwood 47-6; Leto lost to Middleton 42-7.

Why you should go: Because someone will win. Lennard has dropped 18 games in a row; Leto hasn't won on the field since the season-finale in 2009. The Longhorns come in with an average margin of defeat of 28 points, while Leto has lost by an average of 52 points each week. There may not be a ton of offense but one ugly losing streak is about to come to an end.

Plant (6-1-1, 3-0) at Wharton (6-2, 2-1)

Last week: Plant defeated Newsome 30-14; Wharton lost to Alonso 33-15.

Why you should go: Wharton was supposed to beat Alonso last week, setting up a showdown for the 8A-6 title tonight. But the Wildcats were tripped up on the way and now face a must-win against Plant to keep district title hopes alive. Even worse, a Wharton loss could open up a jumble for the second playoff spot with Bloomingdale, Newsome and old friend Alonso.

Sickles (6-1, 3-0) at Wiregrass Ranch (3-4, 0-3)

Last week: Sickles defeated Gaither 48-6; Wiregrass Ranch lost to Steinbrenner 27-20.

Why you should go: Yes, Ray Ray McCloud should be okay to play, according to Sickles coach Brian Turner. But will he? Only if necessary. The Gryphons have to take care of business tonight but likely will have much bigger fish to try and fry next week.

Bishop McLaughlin (1-6, 0-3) at Berkeley Prep (2-4, 0-3), 7 p.m.

Last week: Bishop McLaughlin lost to Fort Meade 63-0; Berkeley Prep lost to Tampa Catholic 17-10.

Why you should go: Berkeley Prep's frustrating season may get a break tonight. Three of the Buccaneers' four losses have come by 12 points this season. Bishop McLaughlin comes in with five straight losses, being shut out in four of those contests.

Carrollwood Day School (5-3, 3-1) at Cambridge (4-3, 2-2)

Last week: CDS defeated Bradenton Christian 49-0; Cambridge lost to Indian Rocks Christian 56-7.

Why you should go: Cambridge's loss to IRC ended any hopes of a playoff spot but the Lancers have posted pretty good offensive numbers in other contests this year. CDS still has an outside shot at a post-season berth so expect fireworks from both offensives. An added treat? This game will feature three of the top WRs in the county in CDS' Michael Smith (29 catches, 677 yards and 6 TDs) and Cambridge's Nick Stein (12-381 yards-5 TDs) and Trevor Smith (18-375 yards-3 TDs).

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