Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Hillsborough-Sickles game tops county football schedule

TAMPA

One week ago was set up to be one of those special Fridays in Hillsborough County football, and then Mother Nature took exception. Slosh and static marred pretty much every contest. Plant and Wharton got pushed back a day, then a couple more hours on the make-up game, again due to lightning.

The action was still notable, if not a bit muted. There was a second-straight near-shocker pulled off by Jefferson and a second-straight near-shocker against mighty Armwood. Then there were the first losses of the season by Tampa Catholic and Northeast, both 5-1, who face off this week.

A glance at the Week 7 in-city schedule has one matchup that jumps off the page (hint: it's the first one on our list).

All kickoffs are (hopefully) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Hillsborough (5-0, 3-0 in District 6A-8) at Sickles (3-2, 1-1)

Last week: Hillsborough defeated Jefferson 36-28; Sickles lost to Armwood 20-16.

Why you should go: This game will likely decide who's still playing on Nov. 16 — when the playoffs start — and who's out of luck. Hillsborough has been solid, but far from convincing in taking down Strawberry Crest and Jefferson in back-to-back weeks, while Sickles nearly pulled off the upset last week, leading Armwood in the late going before the Hawks rallied. The Gryphons can wipe out that disappointment with a victory. We predict Sickles' standout RB Ray Ray Armstrong will do more than he did in last year's 20-10 loss to the Terriers (2 carries, minus-5 yards).

King (2-4, 2-1 in 6A-8) at Jefferson (1-4, 0-2)

Last week: King defeated Leto 48-3; Jefferson lost to Hillsborough 36-28.

Why you should go: To see if Jefferson takes a 20-0 lead and then decides to go for two. Astonishingly, the Dragons, not expected to be a playoff team this year, have led Armwood and Hillsborough 21-0 the past two Fridays, only to fall. Still, the Dragons have plenty to play for, and they will be pulling hard for Sickles to knock off Hillsborough — which would create a possible three-way-tie scenario down the line should the Dragons defeat Sickles. King is feeling pretty hopeful as well after two straight wins. Defensive back Dominick Kelly, whose mates stand to be busy against the pass-happy Dragons, ran back two picks for scores last week.

Dunedin (3-3, 3-2 in 5A-8) at Jesuit (4-2, 4-1)

Last week: Dunedin defeated Spoto 20-13; Jesuit defeated Lennard 47-0.

Why you should go: Jesuit has found its offense and is starting to make a nice playoff run. Along with outscoring its opponents 92-0 over consecutive weeks, the Tigers have been staunch on defense all year. And Dunedin is in must-win mode.

Gibbs (2-3, 2-2) at Robinson (5-0, 4-0)

Last week: Gibbs lost to Lakewood 16-0; Robinson was idle

Why you should go: You don't get many chances to see south Tampa play south St. Petersburg. In fact, this is pretty much the only chance other than Robinson vs. Lakewood — which right now is shaping up to be the district champ decider. Until then, the Knights' much-deserved hype machine takes on a Gibbs side that held the Spartans scoreless for a half last week. Then again, Robinson has 11 defensive touchdowns, so the Gladiators could do the same this week and be down by two or three scores.

Spoto (1-4, 1-3) at Blake (2-4, 1-4)

Last week: Spoto lost to Dunedin 20-13; Blake defeated Middleton 40-34.

Why you should go: Because this one could go about the same as Blake's last one, which was — as predicted in this space — the most highly entertaining game of Week 6. The Yellow Jackets won a classic against Middleton, with DeAndre James running for 156 yards, catching a 79-yard TD and sealing the game with an interception. Are we saying you'll get a repeat type of thriller? Not necessarily. But if it happens, then, yes.

Brandon (0-5) at Plant (4-1)

Last week: Plant defeated Wharton 27-7; Brandon lost to Newsome 35-13.

Why you should go: Because if you're an Eagles fan, perhaps it's a rare chance to see an artificial turf field. We're reaching because, frankly, Brandon has struggled mightily this season. Plant may be able to let QB Aaron Banks rest that shoulder another week.

Tampa Catholic (5-1) at Northeast (5-1)

Last week: Tampa Catholic lost to CCC 27-7; Northeast lost to Countryside 49-0.

Why you should go: Both teams will have extra motivation after their undefeated starts came to a screeching end. It's not a district game, but obviously you'll have two angry (and talented) groups looking to take out their frustrations.

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