By all accounts, coach James Harrell's first season at Jesuit was a successful one.
Jesuit enjoyed an unbeaten regular season, a district championship and 11 total wins. But its one loss remains a sticking point — a second-round 21-7 playoff loss to Robinson, which in quick fashion has become a rival of the Tigers.
After splitting their two meetings last season, the Class 5A, District 8 foes meet tonight at Robinson for their regular-season contest. The matchup will go a long way — a very long way — toward determining the district title and could be the first of two meetings again this year.
In preparation of the matchup, Harrell is leaning toward starting Tommy Eveld at quarterback. Aaron Paulsen started the opening two games for Jesuit (1-1, 1-0) but gave way to Eveld both times. Robinson, meanwhile, is off to a 2-0 start, 1-0 in district play. Both squads still have to navigate the nine-team 5A-8 race, each having to face Spoto and Lakewood, but the Robinson-Jesuit winner tonight likely will be in the district driver's seat.
In other contests, Gaither is hosting quarterback Bennie Coney and a potent Plant City outfit, Blake will try to bounce back from a tough district loss and Plant travels to Manatee County to face a top-tier squad from New Jersey. Tampa Catholic, Sickles and Jefferson have the week off.
All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. unless noted.
Jesuit (1-1) at Robinson (2-0)
Last week: Jesuit defeated Middleton 25-6; Robinson defeated Dunedin 34-14.
The Skinny: This Class 5A, District 8 meeting is one of the top contests of the week. In what could be a playoff preview (like it was last year), this game may decide the district champion. Jesuit used two quarterbacks last week as starter Aaron Paulsen was replaced by Tommy Eveld. Robinson's offense appears fine with junior QB Antonio Hampton throwing a touchdown pass and running for another in the victory over Dunedin.
Plant (2-0) vs. Bergen (N.J.) Catholic (1-0) (8:30 p.m. at Manatee High School)
Last week: Plant defeated Hillsborough 36-6; Bergen Catholic defeated LaSalle 41-17.
The Skinny: Two powerhouses square off in the second game of the Suncoast Challenge being hosted by Manatee High. All appears right with Plant after a 36-6 thumping of rival Hillsborough that saw QB James Few throw a career-best three touchdowns. Bergen Catholic travels south off its big season-opening win and a 300-yard, four-touchdown performance from QB Jon Germano.
Hillsborough (1-1) at Newsome (1-1)
Last week: Plant defeated Hillsborough 36-6; Jefferson defeated Newsome 22-21.
The skinny: This is arguably the best matchup of the night. Both teams enter with ground-oriented offenses and a desire to erase costly mistakes. The Terriers ended up on the wrong end of a lopsided loss because Plant took advantage of their self-inflicted wounds. Newsome blew a 13-point advantage against Jefferson because of miscues. The Wolves have to hope home field and an improving defense can give them the edge.
Dunedin (0-2) at Blake (1-1)
Last week: Dunedin lost to Robinson 34-14; Blake lost to Lakewood 28-0.
The Skinny: These two evenly matched teams are looking for a Class 5A, District 8 win. Dunedin QB Anthony Diviney is capable of making plays, but that hasn't translated into wins yet for the Falcons, 0-1 in 5A-8 play. Blake, also 0-1 in 5A-8, feels it missed a chance to make a district statement with its loss to Lakewood last week.
Middleton (0-2) at Lennard (0-2)
Last week: Middleton lost to Jesuit 25-6; Lennard lost to Gibbs 27-0.
The skinny: One of these teams earns its first victory tonight, and the home-field advantage might tilt the scales in Lennard's favor. The Longhorns had hoped to build on their 5-5 record of 2010, but so far the offense has yet to reach the end zone. Amp Carswell provided a spark for the Tigers with a 58-yard run against Jesuit last week, but Middleton will need more offensive consistency to have a chance.
Tampa Bay Tech (1-1) at Armwood (2-0)
Last week: Tampa Bay Tech defeated King 35-28; Armwood defeated Brandon 54-6 on Sept. 2.
The skinny: This is a rivalry fueled by familiarity. Players from the two schools know each other, and some playful boasting is stirring the excitement. Armwood will need to overcome the absence of injured quarterback Darryl Richardson, a Tech transfer, but do-it-all backup QB Alvin Bailey will be on hand to take up the slack. The Titans hope to test the Hawks' young linebackers with the running of Lamarq Caldwell and Cludner Lecount.
Alonso (2-0) at King (1-1)
Last week: Alonso defeated Durant 26-5; King lost to Tampa Bay Tech 35-28.
The skinny: Alonso has jumped to a nice start, but a win over King and dynamic quarterback Greg Windham (304 yards passing last week) will be far more impressive than victories against Gaither and Durant. The Lions can move the ball on anyone, so the Ravens' Brandon and Brandon duo (QB Brandon Hawkins and RB Brandon Holloway) will have to be at their best if this turns into a high-scoring affair. Consider this a litmus test for Alonso and a chance at redemption for King.
Times staff writer Ernest Hooper contributed to this report. Rod Gipson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.