Saturday, March 17, 2018

HomeTeam 25: Football rankings for Tampa

1. Armwood (5-0)

Up next: at King

Skinny: The Hawks have allowed just 35 points all season. The defense is even providing points with touchdowns of their own. Markeis Colvin returned an interception 99 yards for a score, a play that was turning point in a 48-7 rout of Plant City last week. The special teams also have come up with big plays. Jerome Ford returned a kickoff for a touchdown and James Miller returned a blocked punt for a score against the Raiders. Armwood has winless King on Friday. Three days later, the Hawks host Plant in a showdown of the top two teams in the area.

2. Plant (5-0)

Up next: at Leto

Skinny: The offense usually grabs the headlines, but it is the defense that has really come through in the first half of the season. Plant has allowed just 23 points and recorded three straight shutouts. In last week's 43-0 win over Wharton, the Panthers allowed just 47 total yards and forced three turnovers, including a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown by Indiana recruit Micah McFadden. Frank Murphy, son of the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver, had four catches — all for touchdowns — against the Wildcats.

3. Tampa Bay Tech (4-1)

Up next: vs. Bloomingdale

Skinny: The Titans have put things together, outscoring opponents by a combined 189-24 during their four-game win streak. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has 14 touchdowns (11 passing, three rushing) in the last three games. The schedule gets tougher the next three weeks, starting with Friday's game against Bloomingdale, which is tied with TBT and Plant City at the top of the standings in Class 7A, District 9.

4. Clearwater Central Catholic (6-0)

Up next: at Calvary Christian

Skinny: The team concept is working to perfection for the Marauders, who remain undefeated after an impressive 21-13 win over Rockledge. CCC has been careful with the football, limiting mistakes on offense. And the defense has allowed just 50 points in the past five games, including two shutouts. A win Friday against rival Calvary Christian would keep the Marauders in position to clinch the top seed in the Class 3A, Region 3 standings.

5. Mitchell (6-0)

Up next: vs. Berkeley Prep

Skinny: Last week's 28-7 win over Springstead moved the Mustangs into sole possession of first place in Class 6A, District 6. A win in two weeks against Sunlake would all but wrap up Mitchell's third straight playoff berth and second straight district title. Mychael Hamilton ran for 159 yards against the Eagles to become the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,174 yards.

6. St. Petersburg (4-1)

Up next: vs. Countryside

Skinny: The Green Devils cruised to a 42-16 win over Boca Ciega last week despite not having their two best players, Anthony Johnson and Jalynn Williams, who were both out with injuries. Special teams was the difference against the Pirates with St. Petersburg returning two kickoffs and two blocked field goals for touchdown. The Green Devils are hopeful to have Williams return for Friday's game against Countryside.

7. Durant (5-1)

Up next: at Plant City

Skinny: The Cougars' perfect season came to an end with an 18-15 overtime loss to East Bay early last week. Durant had won its previous three meetings with the Indians by a combined 100-24. The loss dropped the Cougars to fourth place in the Class 7A, District 9 standings behind Bloomingdale, Tampa Bay Tech and Plant City, which are all undefeated. Durant has a chance to make up ground with games against all three frontrunners the next three weeks.

8. Wiregrass Ranch (5-1)

Up next: at Freedom

Skinny: The Bulls got the win they wanted, beating Sickles to exact revenge from last year's loss on the field (Wiregrass Ranch eventually won via forfeit). Four days later, Wiregrass Ranch suffered an unexpected loss to Gaither, dropping the Bulls from the undefeated ranks and into third place in the Class 7A, District 8 standings. The loss puts even greater emphasis on Wiregrass Ranch's game against Plant on Oct. 27.

9. Clearwater (4-1)

Up next: at Dixie Hollins

Skinny: The Tornadoes have won two straight and remain undefeated in Class 6A, District 9 contests after beating Northeast 30-7. Running back Jarius Williams had a big night, rushing for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Colin Wray also threw for 165 yards and two touchdowns. The next two weeks are tuneups before a showdown with Largo on Oct. 27 that should determine the district champion.

10. Hillsborough (4-2)

Up next: vs. Chamberlain

Skinny: Trailing 13-12 at the half, the Terriers rallied to beat Jefferson last week. Dontae Hopkins ran for 98 yards and two touchdown and Tyrese Spain had 75 total yards against his former team. Friday's game against Chamberlain might be the biggest of the season to stay in the hunt for the Class 6A, District 7 title and pick up meaningful points in the new playoff system.

11. Lakewood (4-1)

Up next: at Gibbs

Skinny: For the second straight year, the Spartans handed Pinellas Park their first loss of the season. Troy'von Johnson threw for a touchdown and scored on an interception return to rally his team from a fourth-quarter deficit. A win this week against rival Gibbs would set up a showdown between Lakewood and Tarpon Springs for the Class 5A, District 9 title.

12. Pinellas Park (5-1)

Up next: vs. Seminole

Skinny: The Patriots' 17-16 loss to East Lake two weeks ago has been overturned after the Florida High Athletic Association ruled the Eagles have to forfeit their first three games for using an ineligible player. That includes the Pinellas Park game and means the Patriots are now alone in first place in the Class 7A, District 10 standings. East Lake can appeal the decision. The Patriots' final two district games are against Seminole and Countryside, which are a combined 3-9 this season.

13. Jefferson (4-2)

Up next: at Wharton

Skinny: Dragons coach Jeremy Earle returned from a month-long suspension last week and was missing six starters, most of whom were still serving a suspension from a brawl the previous week against Middleton. The continuity was lacking in a 27-13 loss to Hillsborough. Jefferson should be able to rebound this week against Wharton before facing Jesuit on Oct. 16 in a key Class 5A, District 10 game.

14. Chamberlain (4-1)

Up next: at Hillsborough

Skinny: Last week, the Chiefs gave powerhouse Armwood all they could handle before wearing down in the fourth quarter of a 24-7 loss. That ended Chamberlain's eight-game win streak that dated to last season. But it was an encouraging sign that the Chiefs can hang with most teams. The Chiefs will use that as motivation against Hillsborough this week.

15. Calvary Christian (3-1)

Up next: vs. Clearwater Central Catholic

Skinny: Because of their bye, the Warriors had an extra week to prepare for Clearwater Central Catholic in what might be Calvary's biggest game ever. Since starting their program nearly 20 years ago, the Warriors have never beaten CCC. A first-time win in the series would likely make Calvary the leader in points in Class 3A, Region 3.

16. Nature Coast (4-1)

Up next: vs. Lecanto

Skinny: Wins against Central (28-26) and Weeki Wachee (48-8) helped the Sharks rebound from a loss to Lake Wales two weeks ago. Michael Weston ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries in the victory over the Hornets. Thanks to last week's victories, Nature Coast remains unbeaten against Class 5A, District 7 foes.

17. Largo (4-1)

Up next: Idle

Skinny: The Packers used their bye week to gear up for a stretch run that includes three straight Class 6A, District 9 games, culminating with a matchup against rival and two-time defending district champion Clearwater on Oct. 27. The defensive line has been a strength for Largo the first half of the season. DJ Bullard, a transfer from Osceola, has six of the Packers' nine sacks.

18. Zephyrhills (5-1)

Up next: vs. River Ridge

Skinny: Charles Harrison III threw for a career-high 383 yards and six touchdowns in a win over Anclote. The senior quarterback will need another big performance this week against River Ridge that is for sole possession of first place in Class 5A, District 8. A win by Zephyrhills would snap its two-game losing streak in the series.

19. Tampa Catholic (3-2)

Up next: at Cypress Creek

Skinny: After starting 1-2, the Crusaders have won two straight. The offense is getting into rhythm and scored a combined 68 points in the last two games. A lot of that has to do with the development of quarterback Charlie Dean. The first-year starter has thrown for more than 200 yards in wins over Berkeley Prep and Steinbrenner.

20. Tarpon Springs (4-1)

Up next: at East Lake (Tuesday); at Dunedin

Skinny: Since starting 1-1, the Spongers have won three straight and enter Tuesday's game with a better record (4-1) than rival East Lake (1-5). Quarterback Justice Parham has returned from injury and has a big-time target in J'von France, who has two touchdown receptions in each of the last two games.

21. Berkeley Prep (2-3)

Up next: at Mitchell

Skinny: Friday's game against Mitchell is the third time the Buccaneers have faced an undefeated team this season. The others resulted in losses (29-28 to CCC and 48-40 to Lakeland Christian). A win this week — and the likely 53 points that would come with it — would be a huge lift for Berkeley Prep's playoff prospects in the postseason format.

22. Jesuit (2-3)

Up next: vs. Robinson

Skinny: The Tigers played a tough early-season schedule. All three losses have come against teams that made the playoffs last season or have been nationally ranked. The challenging games could pay off the next few weeks with a slate of Class 5A, District 10 games that will determine if the Tigers can win their fifth straight title.

23. Gaither (4-2)

Up next: vs. Sickles

Skinny: Led by a bruising running game, the Cowboys have won three straight and vaulted into second place in the Class 7A, District 9 standings after last week's 23-13 win over Wiregrass Ranch. Jeromy Reid has rushed for at least 118 yards in each of Gaither's four wins.

24. Wesley Chapel (5-2)

Up next: at Hudson

Skinny: The past two weeks have been tough for the Wildcats. They lost to Anclote to drop out of first place in Class 5A, District 8, then lost Isaiah Bolden, an Oregon-bound athlete who has been dismissed from the team. Wesley Chapel bounced back with a 33-6 win over Ridgewood last week.

25. River Ridge (4-2)

Up next: at Zephyrhills

Skinny: After an 0-2 start, the Royal Knights have won four straight. That gives them momentum needed in a matchup against Zephyrhills for first place in Class 5A, District 8. Kicker Michael Webster is 5-of-7 on field goals this season, including a state-best 49-yarder.

On the bubble: Springstead (3-2), Anclote (3-3), Superior Collegiate (4-2), Cambridge Christian (5-1), Indian Rocks (4-0), Hernando (4-0), Zephyrhills Christian (6-1), Newsome (3-3).


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