Sunday, January 21, 2018

It's Durant and Wharton in matchup of undefeated teams

PLANT CITY — Durant running back Jamarlon Hamilton is very good.

Backfield mate Chris Atkins may be better.

The question is with only one football, which one will carry the load for the Cougars tonight and the rest of the season.

"It's a good problem to have, isn't it?" coach Mike Gottman said after Durant's 36-0 win against Brandon last week.

Indeed it is. Area fans have known about Hamilton, a senior, for some time now. But now they — and opposing defenses — are becoming acquainted with Atkins, a sophomore.

"It's great having the both of us back there," Atkins said. "Whoever gets the ball, the other one just blocks hard for him."

The duo gives the 3-0 Cougars different looks. Hamilton is a bruiser, while Atkins is more of a slasher. And in the Cougars' run-heavy attack, that spells trouble for opposing defenses.

"You can tell that they play off each other very well," Gottman said. "They're both very unselfish players."

Coming off a team-high 1,117 yards rushing, Hamilton is again pacing the Cougars with 384 through the first three games while Atkins has pitched in 310. With both typically sharing the backfield, defenses must be prepared to stop both on each play.

"I've got his back," Atkins said. "And he has mine."

The Cougars will get their stiffest test to date when they travel tonight to face undefeated Wharton (3-0). Although the season is young, Atkins boldly said he believes the Cougars have what it takes to capture the school's first-ever state title.

"I've said it before," he said. "I think this team can go undefeated and win a state championship. I believe that."

Durant (3-0) at Wharton (3-0)

Last week: Durant beat Brandon 36-0; Wharton had a bye and beat Chamberlain 37-7 Sept. 14.

Why you should go: Should be a great matchup of undefeated teams. Durant's duo of Chris Atkins and Jamarlon Hamilton might just be the best in the county.

Jefferson (1-2) at Armwood (3-1)

Last week: Armwood defeated Leto 49-0; Plant defeated Jefferson 52-20 on Sept. 14.

Why you should go: Darryl Richardson. After an up and down first year at Armwood last season, Richardson seems to be finding his groove. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound signal caller has thrown 11 touchdowns to just four interceptions this season, including a school-record five TDs last week.

Riverview (2-1) at Bloomingdale (2-2)

Last week: Plant City defeated Riverview 34-14; Tampa Catholic defeated Bloomingdale 12-7.

Why you should go: The Sharks like to run … a lot. Kimo Vereen rolled up 120 yards last week in the Sharks' first loss of the season.

Sickles (2-1) at Brandon (0-3)

Last Week: Sickles beat King 42-12; Brandon lost to Durant 36-0.

Why you should go: Running back Isaiah Harris is the Eagles' most explosive offensive weapon and doubles at linebacker.

Newsome (1-3) at Chamberlain (1-2)

Last Week: Newsome beat East Bay 30-22; Chamberlain lost to Tampa Bay Tech 22-12.

Why you should go: Will Worth makes the offense tick, but John Hendricks is a bulldozer of a back who also makes people miss. Hendricks ran for 86 yards on just eight carries against East Bay last week.

Jesuit (2-2) at Spoto (1-2)

Last week: Jesuit defeated Blake 14-0; Spoto defeated Middleton 8-0.

Why you should go: Andrew Henry leads Spoto with 136 rushing yards and scored the lone Spartans' TD last week in Spoto's first win of the season.

Strawberry Crest (2-2) at King (0-4)

Last week: Hillsborough defeated Strawberry Crest 32-24; Sickles defeated King 42-12.

Why you should go: Tristan Hyde has been impressive as a first-year starter. Hyde tossed three picks against a tough Hillsborough defense, but also threw for 163 yards and four TDs

Lennard (0-4) at Berkeley Prep (4-0)

Last Week: Robinson defeated Lennard 63-6; Berkeley Prep defeated Lake Highland Prep 24-23.

Why you should go: Lennard got trounced last week and this week will likely bring the same against a strong Bucs team.

Windermere Prep (1-3) vs. Seffner Christian (3-0)

At Strawberry Crest

Last week: Windermere Prep defeated Montverde Academy 24-0; Seffner Christian defeated Life Academy 24-0.

Why you should go: Quick, which team has the best record in Seffner? That's right, the Crusaders are undefeated and coming off a shutout, their second in three games.


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