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Inside slant on Friday's football games

Inside slant

Times staff writers Bob Putnam and Bryan Burns break down this week's games. All games at 7:30 Friday unless noted.

Boca Ciega at Dunedin

Last year's result: Boca Ciega won 23-13

Skinny: The Pirates defense seemed to pick up where it left off in last week's preseason game. Boca Ciega recorded seven sacks and held Blake to minus-33 yards of total offense through three quarters. Meanwhile, the Falcons rolled against Central with Darius Bellamy and Kim Howard gaining huge chunks of yards on the ground and Ryan Singer throwing for two touchdowns.

Best matchup: Boca Ciega's defense zeroed in on Bellamy last year and held him to 34 yards on 12 carries. That will be tough to do again considering Dunedin has more weapons with Howard, a former star at Largo who is eligible for the first time in two seasons, and Singer, a transfer from Countryside.

X factor: The Pirates' special teams came up big with three field goals and a kickoff returned for a touchdown in last year's game. Boca Ciega lost kicker Randall Klafter to graduation and allowed two kickoff returns for touchdowns last week against Blake.

Gibbs at Lakewood

Last year's result: Gibbs won 14-13

Skinny: This is a neighborhood rivalry between two up-and-coming coaches: Gibbs' Yusuf Shakir and Lakewood's Cory Moore. Both teams have a ton of speed at the skill positions and are capable of big plays. Jacquez Jenkins will start at quarterback for the Spartans and will be looking to get the ball to Bernard Reedy and Victor Perkins. The Gladiators have a dangerous combination with quarterback Josh Rembert and running back/receiver Jarvis West.

Best matchup: The skill kids are set. It's the lines that are questionable. The Gladiators' top guy is Jerrod Walker. The Spartans' best is Ian Autry. They'll need to keep their quarterbacks in one piece.

X factor: Gibbs is known for blocking kicks. Last year, it blocked 13 and returned eight for touchdowns.

East Lake at Largo

Last year's result: Largo won 20-0.

Skinny: This is a rematch of a first-round playoff game, which the Packers also won. Largo took some hits with the graduation of Brynn Harvey and Leonard Johnson, but seems to have filled in the holes with Marcel Durham at running back and Countryside transfer Ryan Eppes at quarterback. The Packers defense is strong with seven returning starters. The Eagles are rebuilding with just three returning starters on defense. East Lake is looking to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2003-04. It's Sam Shaffer's turn under center after spending last year on the JV.

Best matchup: The Eagles had trouble scoring against the Packers in the regular season and in the playoffs last year. East Lake will need the experience of its offensive line to come through against a Largo defensive front that returns all four starters.

X factor: Largo's Mike Lang is a dual threat. Last week, he had 140 yards receiving against Clearwater. Last year, he had six interceptions on defense.

Northeast at St. Petersburg

Last year's result: Northeast won 40-7

Skinny: The Vikings have switched gears on offense and are running more three-receiver sets instead of their trademark Wing-T. Ryan Moore appears to be the starter at quarterback. Hank White and Juarez Wynn are his top targets. The Green Devils have been rolling with victories against St. Petersburg Catholic in the spring and Robinson in the preseason last week. St. Petersburg has a bevy of backs and a stout defense.

Best matchup: Northeast's offensive line returns four starters, including two who weigh more than 300 pounds. St. Petersburg has an aggressive front four led by Te'Jay Brown.

X factor: Northeast's Tim Tisdale brings an added dimension to the running game. Last week, the fullback had more than 90 yards rushing.

Indian Rocks Christian at Keswick Christian

Last year's result: Keswick won 40-21

Skinny: Both teams are coming off playoff seasons and return a ton of talent. Indian Rocks will get plenty of yards on the ground behind its three-headed monster — RBs Jonny Sitton, Ethan Engelbert and Lou Mason — in the backfield. Keswick's defense, led by DE Daniel Darden and SPC transfer Jakobi Wheeler at linebacker, should be stout again after surrendering fewer than 10 points a game last year. Crusaders RB Reeze Rucker might be the best player nobody's ever heard of. Heck, his teammates have barely heard of him. Rucker only started playing this spring.

Best matchup: The Crusaders return most of their starters from a defense that allowed 61 points combined last season. The most points given up were against Indian Rocks, who scored 21.

X factor: Keswick kicker Kenny Lucas, who has a long leg and set a school record for extra points last year, is back.

Tarpon Springs at Palm Harbor

Last year's result: Tarpon won 28-13.

Skinny: The Spongers are loaded with 22 seniors. Last week, Tarpon squeaked by Gulf in the preseason. The Hurricanes are missing some key personnel after two players transferred to Tampa Catholic and others were lost to injury.

Best matchup: Tarpon Springs' Danny Reyes and Palm Harbor U.'s Sean Shelton are two of the more experienced quarterbacks in the county. Reyes, a three-year starter, helped the Spongers to a winning record last season. Shelton, a four-year starter, is trying to get the Hurricanes into the playoffs for the first time. There should be some college recruiters watching these two.

X factor: Tarpon returns five defensive backs who combined for 20 interceptions last year. Miles Toli led the team with six, followed by Josiah Fisk and Kyle Ahern, who each had five.

Best of the rest

Miami Bay Point at Clearwater Central Catholic

Last year's result: CCC won 20-6

Skinny: The Marauders won last year thanks to a stifling defense. That unit should still be strong, but CCC coach Mike Jalazo is just as excited about the playmakers on offense. Ian Coia and Eric Miller should split time at quarterback. Micah Poole is a multipurpose threat and Paul Freedman is a big target at tight end.

Countryside at Pinellas Park

Last year's result: Countryside won 49-7

Skinny: Countryside's 27-21 loss to Alonso last week was disappointing for a Cougars team with playoff aspirations. But it was only preseason and Alonso is a pretty solid Hillsborough team with playoff hopes of its own. The Cougars will attempt to redeem themselves against a Pinellas Park opponent that at times has struggled just putting its full complement of players on the practice field at one time.

Dixie Hollins at Osceola

Last year's result: Osceola won 14-12

Skinny: A win this year at Osceola could kick off a .500 season or better for the Rebels. Osceola had trouble holding onto the ball in its preseason loss to Northeast. The Warhawks' only big play came on Edwin McKinney's 90-yard kickoff return. Osceola will need a few more playmakers to step up against Dixie.

Clearwater at Seminole

Last year's result: Clearwater won 37-7

Skinny: The Tornadoes won by 30 last year, but this go-round should be closer. Michael Holmes carried the ball just two times in Clearwater's 49-8 preseason loss to Largo. Expect his name to get quite a few more mentions over the Warhawks' PA system. Both teams will rely on the rushing attack to try to grind the ball down the field. In all likelihood, this game will come down to conditioning in the fourth quarter.

Northside Christian at Calvary Christian

Last year's result: Northside won 28-14.

Skinny: The Warriors' Seth Cole and John Stephens, who transferred from Northside, face their old team. The game also is the debut for Northside coach Andre Dobson, who came from California. It should be wide open on offense.

Lakeland Christian at Admiral Farragut Academy

Last year's result: AFA won 1-0

Skinny: Last year, the Blue Jackets won by forfeit. This time, they should win on the field, especially with Noah Silverberg and Josh Birch making big plays.

Fort Meade at Shorecrest

Last year's result: Fort Meade won 62-0

Skinny: In the past three years, the Chargers have been outscored in this series 167-0. Shorecrest will have to lean on its two, 1,000 yard rushers — Hunter Trumaine and Jack Schroeder — to keep it close.

St. Petersburg Catholic at Orlando Lake Highland Prep

Last year's result: Lake Highland won 37-21

Skinny: The Barons need big plays from receiver Julian Smith and running back Keelyon Bryant. They also have to tighten up on defense.

Canterbury at Miami Northwest Prep Christian Academy

Last year's result: None

Skinny: The Crusaders are breaking in several new starters at the skill positions. Still, quarterback Dominique Thornton should lead them to victory.

Inside slant on Friday's football games 09/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 4, 2008 2:09pm]

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