Jefferson, the defending Class 3A state champion, plays host to Armwood, the 2010 Class 4A runner-up, in a pivotal game now that both perennial powers are in the same Class 6A district.
Yet the matchup might not be as good as advertised. The Dragons, under new coach Jeremy Earle, have stumbled early, including a lopsided loss last week against St. Edward, one of Ohio's top teams.
Meanwhile, the Hawks look primed to make another state title run with a stifling defensive front, an athletic secondary and a Division I offensive line. Add to that a variety of skill players, including receiver Alvin Byrant and running back Wade Edwards, and everything appears to tilt in Armwood's favor.
Of course, Dragons quarterback Deiondre Porter has enough weapons to pull off the upset if the Hawks come out overconfident. There is a reason they will play the game.
Armwood (4-0) at Jefferson (1-2)
LAST WEEK: Armwood defeated Leto 68-0; Jefferson lost to St. Edward (Ohio) 52-13.
THE SKINNY: Two of the county's top teams face off for the first time as Class 6A, District 8 foes. And for Jefferson, this is the second game in a tough lineup. Up next are district foes Hillsborough, King and Sickles. Armwood has been perfect this year and this week may finally be at full strength with the expected return of QB Darryl Richardson. Also, standout RB Matt Jones is heating up after running for three TDs against Leto in his first action of the season after overcoming a knee injury.
Brandon (1-2) at Sickles (3-0)
LAST WEEK: Brandon lost to Durant 36-24; Sickles defeated King 49-23.
THE SKINNY: It's difficult to determine Brandon's mind-set after it watched its come-from-behind effort slip away in the final minutes against Durant last week. Sickles, meanwhile, after playing just well enough to win in its first two games, broke out for almost 50 points last week. Running backs LaDondra Crittenden and Yhaquille Grant have led the way with a combined 500 yards on the season for the bruising Gryphons.
Chamberlain (2-2) at Newsome (2-2)
Last week: The Chiefs lost to Tampa Bay Tech 38-14; Newsome defeated East Bay 49-21.
The skinny: Newsome has yet to surrender less than 21 points in a game this year, but it's bend-but-don't-break defense has served them well against some stiff early-season competition. Both teams bring in potent rushing attacks with the Wolves' Keller Powers and the Chiefs' Xavier Johnson.
Wharton (1-2) at Durant (2-1)
Last week: Wharton lost to Chamberlain 20-17 on Sept. 16; Durant defeated Brandon 36-24.
The skinny: Durant picked up a big district win last week against Brandon and faces Wharton before another huge district game against Plant City next week. If Durant looks ahead, the team may get burned by the Wildcats' Chase Litton, one of the best quarterbacks in the county.
Bloomingdale (2-2) at Riverview (2-2)
Last week: Bloomingdale lost to Tampa Catholic 33-14; Riverview lost to Plant City 56-0.
The skinny: This should be an interesting game. Riverview coach Bruce Gifford resigned earlier this week, and how that affects the Sharks will go a long way in determining a winner tonight. The Bulls, meanwhile, hope to get back on track after two consecutive losses.
King (1-3) at Strawberry Crest (0-4)
Last week: King lost to Sickles 49-23; Strawberry Crest lost to Hillsborough 42-0.
The skinny: Will Strawberry Crest win a game this season? Don't look for it this week against a potent King offense. The Chargers' only hope is to outscore the Lions and a defense that has allowed 43.3 points in its past three games.
Berkeley Prep (4-0) at Lennard (1-3)
LAST WEEK: Berkeley Prep defeated Lake Highland Prep 35-0; Lennard lost to Robinson 42-14.
The skinny: The Bucs are jumping up two classifications to face Lennard and word out of West Tampa is this team is for real. Berkeley's versatile offensive threat Nelson Agholor has more than 500 yards of offense and 11 TDs in four games this season. Lennard's lone win has come against a hapless Middleton club, and it has been outscored 71-27 in its three losses this year.
Spoto (1-2) at Jesuit (3-1)
LAST WEEK: Spoto defeated Middleton 20-6; Jesuit defeated Blake 35-0.
THE SKINNY: Spoto gained its first win of the season after having to forfeit a win for using an ineligible player this month against Riverview. Spoto (1-1 in district play) may have a tougher task adding a Class 5A, District 8 win against a Jesuit squad that is already out to a 3-0 lead and first-place position in the district race. Jesuit QB Tommy Eveld is coming off a 288-yard, three-TD passing performance.
Seffner Christian (2-1) at Windermere Prep (1-2)
Last week: Seffner Christian defeated Ocala Christian 49-6; Windermere Prep defeated Jacksonville Cedar Creek Christian 25-6.
The Skinny: Look out Hillsborough County, here come the Crusaders. For the first time in program history — albeit short — Seffner Christian is over .500. The team can advance its record if it continues to get contributions from QB Tanner Richardson, Seth Lewis and Garrett Saunders.
Tampa Catholic (3-0) at Lake Highland Prep (1-3)
LAST WEEK: Tampa Catholic defeated Bloomingdale 33-14; Lake Highland Prep lost to Berkeley Prep 35-0.
THE SKINNY: Tampa Catholic hit upon its primary strength in its big win against Bloomingdale: it's running game. Backs Corey Bennett and Jordan Rich-Rogers led a 352-yard Crusaders' running effort. Lake Highland has lost three games in a row by increasing margins each week. The Highlanders can expect a steady dose of that TC rushing attack tonight.
Times correspondent Rod Gipson contributed to this report. Brandon Wright can be reached at h[email protected]