Tuesday, January 23, 2018

HomeTeam 25: Football rankings for Tampa Bay

1. Armwood (1-0)

Up next: vs. Plant

Skinny: It took five days — and two delays because of heavy rain and lightning — before the Hawks played their season opener against Tampa Bay Tech. Armwood pulled away in the second half thanks to a stingy defense and bruising running game to win 35-12 in Evan Davis' debut as coach. Defensive lineman Malcolm Lamar, an Oregon commit, showed his athleticism by pouncing on a fumble and picking off a pass in the second half. It was Lamar's second interception counting the preseason game against Bradenton Manatee. For Armwood, which is 16th nationally in MaxPreps' latest rankings, the attention now turns to Plant in one of the biggest games of the season. The Hawks want payback after last year's loss snapped their 36-game regular-season win streak.

2. Plant (2-0)

Up next: at Armwood

Skinny: Each of the Panthers' first two games took two days to complete because of weather delays. That has slowed the progress of the offense, which is working in several starters. Still, the Panthers have pulled through, beating Hillsborough and Robinson, to extend their regular-season win streak to 17 games. The real test comes this week against rival Armwood in a matchup of two state title-contending teams.

3. Jefferson (2-0)

Up next: vs. Brandon

Skinny: The Dragons have relied on the running of Niko Duffey and big plays on defense to remain unbeaten. Duffey had more than 100 yards on the ground for the second straight game and linebacker Jahaud Russ scored on a return off a blocked punt in a 24-0 win over Steinbrenner. Russ' touchdown came one week after scored on an interception. Jefferson has a good shot at staying undefeated going into a showdown with district rival Jesuit next week.

4. Durant (2-0)

Up next: at Newsome

Skinny: The intensity for the Alafia River Rivalry will be turned up even more with the Cougars and Newsome both undefeated. Durant has won the last two meetings by a combined nine points. The Cougars have showed some balance with quarterback Carlton Potter hitting some big plays in the passing game and running back Cameron Myers, an Arkansas State commit, running for than 100 yards in each of the first two wins.

Scott Purks | Times

5. Tampa Bay Tech (0-1)

Up next: vs. Sickles

Skinny: The Titans have to tighten up on special teams, especially after fumbling twice on kickoff returns, missing an extra point and botching a punt attempt in the season-opening loss to Armwood. If the kicking game comes around, Tampa Bay Tech could be dangerous. The running game, led by Plant City transfer Treshaun Ward (16 carries, 118 yards) and Jaquavious Johnson (10 carries, 56 yards), put up solid numbers against the Hawks.

6. St. Petersburg (2-0)

Up next: vs. Boca Ciega

Skinny: Down 19-0 in the third quarter against rival Lakewood, the Green Devils rallied by being opportunistic on special teams. Bryce Green returned a kickoff for a touchdown, and St. Petersburg pounced on a botched punt and recovered a fumble to set up two scores. Big plays in the kicking game have become the norm. Iowa State commit Anthony Johnson returned a punt he blocked for a touchdown in the opener against Largo.

7. Clearwater (1-0)

Up next: at Countryside

Skinny: Beefing up the schedule, the Tornadoes went over the Skyway Bridge to play Braden River, an annual playoff contender. Clearwater trailed 21-7 when the game was postponed because of the weather. Both teams agreed to make up the game at a later date if they need the playoff points. Another challenge comes this week against undefeated Countryside.

Douglas R. Clifford | Times

8. East Lake (1-1)

Up next: vs. Tarpon Springs

Skinny: Close, low-scoring games have typified the Eagles' start to the season. East Lake needed a successful extra point in overtime to beat rival Palm Harbor University 14-13 in the opener. Last week against Largo, it appeared the Eagles might be able to win with another kick, They never got the chance. Largo came through with a fourth down sack to end the drive. To bounce back, East Lake has to find a way to score points in the red zone. The Eagles failed to do so on three drives against the Packers.

9. Tampa Catholic (1-0)

Up next: at Clearwater Central Catholic

Skinny: Trailing 12-0 at the half, the Crusaders rallied with big plays on both sides of the ball to beat Tarpon Springs 13-12. Deangelo Taylor returned a fumble for a touchdown, and Charlie Dean threw a touchdown. Tampa Catholic will have to find more consistency this week in order to beat rival Clearwater Central Catholic for the second straight season.

10. Hillsborough (1-1)

Up next: Idle

Skinny: The weather has been a big factor in hampering the Terriers' offense. The first two games were played in driving rainstorms, slowing down the speed and athleticism Hillsborough has at the skill positions. That put more emphasis on Hillsborough's defense, and it delivered in last week's 14-0 win over Plant City last week. Defensive lineman Shawn Hardy had a monster game with three sacks and two fumble recoveries. The Terriers have allowed a combined nine points in the first two games.

11. Clearwater Central Catholic (2-0)

Up next: vs. Tampa Catholic

Skinny: No longer loaded with a bunch of major Division I-A recruits, the Marauders are emphasizing more of a team concept to stay among the elite. The strategy is working. After rallying to beat Berkeley Prep in the opener, CCC shut out Sarasota Booker. This week's game against rival Tampa Catholic is the one the Marauders look forward to, especially after the Crusaders handed CCC its only loss in the regular season last year.

12. Wiregrass Ranch (2-0)

Up next: vs. Sunlake

Skinny: Last week's game against Wesley Chapel was not only a battle between playoff contenders, but also a matchup of elite Division I-A recruits. The Bulls' Jordan Miner (Penn State) and the Wildcats' Isaiah Bolden (Oregon) spent most of the night delivering big plays. Miner's had more impact. He picked off Bolden, scored on a two-point conversion and weaved his way for a 56-yard touchdown run with less than seven minutes remaining to seal a 14-7 win.

13. Jesuit (0-2)

Up next: at Steinbrenner

Skinny: After winning 21 straight regular-season games, the Tigers have now lost two in a row. Battling through a slew of injuries on offense, Jesuit played tough but fell short in a 22-7 loss to nationally-ranked St. Joseph's Prep (Pa.) last week. The Tigers will try to turn things around in their first road game of the season against Steinbrenner.

14. Berkeley Prep (1-1)

Up next: at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney

Skinny: The Buccaneers bounced back from a heart-breaking, last-second loss to CCC to beat Auburndale Kingdom Prep 35-0. Jakob Hines has been the workhorse in the backfield, rushing for a combined 273 yards and five touchdowns in the first two games. This week's game against Cardinal Mooney is one Berkeley Prep needs to accumulate the necessary points needed to make the playoffs.


15. Nature Coast (1-0)

Up next: vs. Springstead

Skinny: Two weeks ago, the Sharks' game against IMG White was canceled because of lightning. So the actual opener came in last week's 33-7 win over struggling South Sumter. Michael Weston ran for 193 yards and three touchdowns, and Fabian Burnett was 4-of-5 passing for 81 yards. The offense will need another strong performance this week against rival Springstead.

16. Pinellas Park (2-0)

Up next: vs. Osceola

Skinny: Lawrance Toafili, a sophomore, leads the state in rushing with 526 yards in the first two games. His hard-nosed running is a big reason why the Patriots are off a strong start with wins against River Ridge and Northeast, which were a combined 14-4 last season.

17. Mitchell (2-0)

Up next: at Ridgewood

Skinny: The defense gave one of the best performances coach Andy Schmitz said he's seen at the school in a 14-3 win over rival River Ridge last week. The Royal Knights' only true drive came in the final minute of the first half that ended with a field goal. The victory gives the two-time defending district champion Mustangs the confidence needed for a tough stretch that includes games against Springstead, Clearwater, Berkeley Prep and Sunlake in the next six weeks.

18. Calvary Christian (2-0)

Up next: at Bradenton St. Stephen's

Skinny: The Warriors are off to an impressive start, beating 2A region semifinalist Admiral Farragut and 2A state semifinalist Northside Christian. Now Calvary Christian faces defending independent state champion Bradenton St. Stephen's .

19. Cambridge Christian (2-0)

Up next: vs. Auburndale Kingdom Prep

Skinny: Lancers quarterback Jaylin Jackson has put up video game numbers, throwing for seven touchdowns, rushing for two more and adding another on an interception return in the first two games, both wins. Jackson could have another big game this week against Kingdom Prep, which gave up 35 in last week's loss to Berkeley Prep.


20. Chamberlain (2-0)

Up next: vs. Riverview

Skinny: Tyler Riddell threw for 327 yards and five touchdowns in a 50-27 win over Bloomingdale. The Chiefs have now won seven straight regular-season games dating to last season and could be 3-0 heading into a showdown with Armwood next week.

21. Lakewood (1-1)

Up next: at Delray Beach American Heritage

Skinny: Last week was a tough one for the Spartans, who let a 19-point lead slip away in a loss to St. Petersburg. It doesn't get easier with games against Delray Beach American Heritage and Ocala Vanguard coming up.

22. Wesley Chapel (1-1)

Up next: at Pasco

Skinny: The tougher schedule resulted in an early-season loss to Wiregrass Ranch. That is fine with Wildcats coach Tony Egan, who wanted to face better competition in September to get his team ready for bigger district games down the stretch.

23. Largo (1-1)

Up next: at Palm Harbor University

Skinny: Defensive lineman D.J. Bullard, a transfer from Osceola, is the second in the state in sacks with six after recording two against East Lake last week. His biggest one came on fourth down late in the game to seal a 14-12 win over the Eagles.

24. Zephyrhills (1-1)

Up next: Idle

Skinny: Bulldogs coach Nick Carroll, a former assistant at Sunlake, knows how to beat his former school. Last week, Zephyrhills beat the Seahawks for the second straight season. This week, the Bulldogs have the week off to get ready for their district opener against Ridgewood on Sept. 15.

25. Newsome (2-0)

Up next: vs Durant

Skinny: The Wolves have a flair for the dramatic. After rallying from a 24-7 deficit to beat Bloomingdale in the opener, Newsome needed two overtimes to pull out a 17-14 win over East Bay. The ability to win close games will be big this week against rival Durant.

On the bubble: Countryside (2-0), Springstead (2-0), Tarpon Springs (1-1), River Ridge (0-2), Pasco (2-0), East Bay (1-1), Hernando (2-0), Spoto (2-0), Middleton (2-0)

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