Sunday, March 18, 2018

HomeTeam 25: Football rankings for Tampa Bay

1. Armwood (0-0)

Up next: at Tampa Bay Tech on Wednesday; bye Friday

Skinny: The season opener against Tampa Bay Tech, originally scheduled for last week, has been postponed twice. The first makeup date was Monday but heavy rain caused the field to be flooded around the sidelines. So the game was pushed to Wednesday, the only day this week that does not have rain in the forecast. Because of the delays, the Hawks have used up most of their bye week and have to start preparing for another tough contest against Plant on Sept. 8.

2. Plant (1-0)

Up next: vs. Robinson

Skinny: The Panthers survived a tough opponent — and the elements — in a 9-7 season-opening victory over Hillsborough. That was Plant's lowest point total since a 21-3 loss to Armwood two years ago. That also was the last time the Panthers lost a regular-season game. The offense sputtered but that was to be expected in game played in wet conditions. Plant won thanks to an intentional grounding penalty that resulted in a safety in the second half.

Scott Purks | Special to the Times

3. Tampa Bay Tech (0-0)

Up next: vs. Armwood on Wednesday; bye Friday

Skinny: Titans coach Jayson Roberts was adamant about doing everything possible to play the season opener against Armwood, even if it meant postponing the game twice. It all has to do with points in the new playoff system. The winner could end up getting 53 points (50 if an opponent wins 80 percent of its games and three bonus points if a team made the playoffs in the past two seasons). That windfall could be the difference in homefield advantage in the region playoffs. Defensive lineman Jonathan King, an Oregon commit, had a stinger, but will play Wednesday.

4. East Lake (1-0)

Up next: vs. Largo

Skinny: It's become routine for the Eagles to play a nail-biter against rival Palm Harbor University in the opener. East Lake won 14-13 in overtime on Ian Woodward's successful point-after kick. It is the third straight meeting that has come down to the final minute and all three have been decided by a combined eight points.

5. Clearwater (1-0)

Up next: at Braden River

Skinny: The opener was a breeze with the Tornadoes cruising to a 56-6 victory over Dunedin that was pretty decided by the end of the third quarter. This week, Clearwater gets what it has craving, a tough out-of-area matchup. Last year, the Tornadoes' non-district schedule was weak and coach Don Mesick spent the offseason finding quality opponents. He got it with the Pirates, who are an annual playoff contender.

6. Jefferson (1-0)

Up next: at Steinbrenner

Skinny: Down 14-0 in the first half, the Dragons rallied with a barrage of big plays to pull out a 21-14 victory over Plant City. Niko Duffey led all rushers with 108 yards, including a 41-yard run for a score in the third quarter that ignited the comeback. This week, Jefferson gets another good test against Steinbrenner in a matchup of unbeatens.

Monica Herndon | Times

7. Durant (1-0)

Up next: vs. Sickles

Skinny: The Cougars' 14-10 win over Jesuit should not come as that much of a surprise considering coach Mike Gottman is 10-5 in openers. That includes victories over tough opponents such as Plant City and Hillsborough. Cameron Myers, an Arkansas State commit, had 133 total yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that turned out to be the winner.

8. Jesuit (0-1)

Up next: vs. St. Joseph's Prep

Skinny: The Tigers had their 21-game regular-season win streak snapped with a 14-10 loss to Durant. To make matters worse, Jesuit has also lost two running backs and two offensive linemen to injuries the past two weeks. Things do not get any easier with the Tigers hosting St. Joseph's (Pa.), which is ranked 15th in MaxPrep's top 25 national poll.

9. Tampa Catholic (0-0)

Up next: at Tarpon Springs

Skinny: For the second straight season, the Crusaders had their season opener canceled because of the weather. Rested and ready to go, Tampa Catholic now opens against the Spongers. This will be the first chance to see what quarterback Charlie Dean can do with the Crusaders' strong set of skill players.

10. St. Petersburg (1-0)

Up next: at Lakewood

Skinny: The season opener against Largo was supposed to be a challenge. It turned out to be anything but as the Green Devils rolled to a 31-6 victory. Anthony Johnson, an Iowa State commit, returned a punt he blocked for a touchdown and recorded two interceptions. This week, St. Petersburg plays its annual grudge match with Lakewood. The Green Devils won last year to snap a two-game losing streak to its rival.

11. Hillsborough (0-1)

Up next: at Plant City

Skinny: The defense is as stingy as ever, holding Plant's high-powered offense to seven points. But the offense is struggling. Counting the preseason, the Terriers have scored a combined seven points. Dontae Hopkins had 121 yards rushing, including a 60-yard run for a score, against the Panthers.


12. Clearwater Central Catholic (1-0)

Up next: at Sarasota Booker

Skinny: Quarterback Rory Hicks, who transferred from Countryside, was the model of efficiency in the opener, completing 74 percent of his passes and accounting for 274 yards of offense in a wild 29-28 victory over Berkeley Prep. The Marauders rallied from a 28-14 fourth deficit with Preston McDonald completing the comeback on his game-ending field goal.

13. Wiregrass Ranch (1-0)

Up next: at Wesley Chapel

Skinny: If the preseason and opener are any indication, the Bulls could be involved in a series of shootouts this season. In the kickoff classic, Wiregrass Ranch staged a furious rally that fell short against CCC. It was the opposite in the opener with the Bulls jumping out to a big lead before holding on to beat Zephyrhills 31-29. Jordan Miner, a Penn State commit, sealed it with a pick near the end zone on the final play.

14. Berkeley Prep (0-1)

Up next: vs. Auburndale Kingdom Prep

Skinny: Buccaneers coach Dominick Ciao said his team needed to play a perfect game to beat rival Clearwater Central Catholic in the opener. Berkeley Prep did — for three quarters. Ahead 28-14, the Buccaneers watched their lead evaporate in a 29-28 loss. Running back Jakob Hines (121 yards) and quarterback Josh Youngblood (112 yards) led a powerful rushing attack that will be one of the team's strengths this season.

15. Nature Coast (0-0)

Up next: vs. South Sumter

Skinny: The Sharks were ahead 6-0 and had more than 200 yards of offense in the first quarter when their opener against IMG's White team was called because of lightning. Nature Coast faces a traditionally strong opponent in South Sumter this week. The Raiders lost badly to River Ridge in the preseason and dropped their opener to Leesburg.

16. Lakewood (1-0)

Up next: vs. St. Petersburg

Skinny: After scoring on special teams and defense in a preseason win over Sunlake, the Spartans' offense found the end zone when it mattered in a 27-26 win over rival Boca Ciega in the opener. Troy'von Johnson scored the winner on a 6-yard run off a direct snap late in the fourth quarter.

Dirk Shadd | Times

17. Wesley Chapel (1-0)

Up next: vs. Wiregrass Ranch

Skinny: Note to opposing punters: kick the ball away from Isaiah Bolden. The Wildcats athlete, who has committed to Oregon, is second in the state with an average of 45.3 yards per punt return. One of his three returns went for a touchdown in a season-opening win over Sunlake. Bolden faces Wiregrass Ranch's Jordan Miner this week in a matchup of two of the best players in the area.

18. Pinellas Park (1-0)

Up next: at Northeast

Skinny: Another year, another punishing running attack from the Patriots. Against River Ridge in the season opener, Pinellas Park racked up 374 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in a 21-12 win. Lawrance Toafili did the bulk of the work, rushing for 274 yards and two scores.

19. Mitchell (1-0)

Up next: at River Ridge

Skinny: The Mustangs recorded seven sacks and the offense displayed some balance in a 31-7 victory over Anclote in the opener. The big test comes this week against rival Ridge Ridge. The last two games between the teams have been decided by a combined eight points.

20. Calvary Christian (1-0)

Up next: vs. Northside Christian

Skinny: Boosted by the addition of CCC transfers Amari Burney and Deandre Ferguson, the Warriors have the talent to compete for a playoff berth. A 20-18 preseason loss to defending 3A state finalist Berkeley Prep gave Calvary Christian the confidence it needed to rout Admiral Farragut 42-13 in the opener.

21. Cambridge Christian (1-0)

Up next: vs. Twiggs County (Ga.)

Skinny: Jaylin Jackson threw for five touchdowns and returned an interception for a score, all in the first half, of a 42-3 rout of Foundation Academy in the opener. The Lancers have won 18 straight regular-season games and put their 22-game regular-season home streak on the line against Twiggs County (Ga.) this week.


22. Chamberlain (1-0)

Up next: vs. Bloomingdale

Skinny: Since starting 0-4 last season, the Chiefs have been one of the hottest teams in the area. They won their final five games of 2016 to finish with a winning record and carried that momentum over with an impressive 17-0 win over Gaither in Monday's opener.

23. River Ridge (0-1)

Up next: vs. Mitchell

Skinny: After losing to Pinellas Park in the opener, the Royal Knights face rival Mitchell in another tough test. River Ridge is trying to avoid going 0-2 for the first time since 2013, the last year it missed the playoffs. To get back on track, the Royal Knights will need another strong performance from DJ Mann, who had 58 yards receiving and eight tackles against the Patriots.

24. Zephyrhills (0-1)

Up next: at Sunlake

Skinny: Charles Harrison III, a dynamic playmaker at quarterback, nearly led the Bulldogs to a victory over Wiregrass Ranch in the opener. Zephyrhills drove to the Bulls' 1-yard line in the final minute when Harrison III had a pass tipped before being intercepted by Jordan Miner to end the game.

25. Newsome (1-0)

Up next: vs East Bay

Skinny: Trailing 24-7 at the half, the Wolves rallied for a 27-24 victory over Bloomingdale in the opener. UCF commit Patrick Jolly had 106 yards rushing and a touchdown, and a 35-yard reception that turned out to be the winning score.

On the bubble: Boca Ciega (0-1), Bloomingdale (0-1), Countryside (1-0), East Bay (1-0), Hernando (1-0), Largo (0-1), Northside Christian (1-0), Palm Harbor University (0-1), Plant City (0-1), Springstead (1-0), Steinbrenner (1-0), Sunlake (0-1), Tarpon Springs (1-0)

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