What we learned
1. 3A-7 is a three-way race.
Barring an upset over the final four weeks of the regular season, Mitchell's postseason hopes were snuffed on homecoming by way of Gulf's 24-10 upset. That leaves Pasco, Land O'Lakes and Sunlake, all undefeated and performing like powerhouses, left to battle head-to-head to see who will capture the district's two postseason spots. No surprise that the Pirates and Gators will contend for the district title, but Sunlake's inclusion is unexpected. The fourth-year program looks like a serious challenger after recording its fourth shutout of the season and putting up 59 points against Zephyrhills.
2. Gulf's defense is a lot better when not playing teams named Pasco, Land O'Lakes or Sunlake.
After consecutive losses against that trio in which it allowed 134 points, the Buccaneers made a substantial turnaround, holding Mitchell to only 106 yards of offense, including minus-32 yards on the ground. Gulf's swarming, attack-the-ball mentality paid dividends as it sacked senior QB Matt Michaels four times and picked him off three times. The Buccaneers won't make the playoffs, but they have shown the ability to bounce back during a tumultuous year in which their coach resigned before the season and two of the best players were ineligible to play until halfway through. So the future bodes well for the program.
3. Ricky Trinidad's injury finally caught up to Mitchell.
Where do the Mustangs go from here? Mitchell's 14-point loss to Gulf couldn't have come at a worse time, with a tough stretch of games the next three weeks against Sunlake, Land O'Lakes and Pasco. The Mustangs survived for a while without their star running back, winning the first three games after Trinidad's knee ligament injury. Against Gulf, though, the Mustangs' lack of explosiveness in the backfield was evident. Mitchell RBs Freddie Jones, Edward Musto and Mordell Holley combined for a single yard on 10 carries. And now with an injury to QB Matt Michaels, who was hurt Friday, it could make for a long three-game stretch.
1. Pasco (6-0): The Pirates earned their first shutout this season in annihilating Anclote 61-0.
This week: vs. Land O'Lakes (6-0)
2. Land O'Lakes (6-0): The Gators offense and defense were equal parts impressive in a 49-3 laugher over Wesley Chapel.
This week: vs. Pasco (6-0)
3. Sunlake (6-0): Seahawks offense scores 59 against Zephyrhills, its highest scoring output in school history.
This week: at Mitchell (5-2)
4. Hernando (5-1): Leopards are rolling after two district victories in a row against teams that were undefeated in 3A-6 prior to facing them.
This week: vs. Eustis (0-7)
5. Nature Coast (3-3): The Sharks' playoff hopes are on life support after suffering their third-straight district loss, this time 28-21 to Dunnellon.
This week: vs. Citrus (1-6)
6. Wiregrass Ranch (3-3): Bad news for the Bulls: their next opponent, Tarpon Springs, has alternated wins and losses each week. Thursday, the Spongers fell to Countryside.
This week: vs. Tarpon Springs (3-4)
7. Gulf (4-3): After shocking Mitchell 24-10, the Buccaneers have a legitimate chance to finish 7-3, with winnable games against Anclote, Zephyrhills and Wesley Chapel left.
This week: at Anclote (1-5)
On the bubble: Mitchell (5-2), Springstead (3-4)
Times correspondents Andy Villamarzo and Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.
|RB Kris Aratchiysky, Gulf||The senior had mediocre stats vs. Pasco last week, with only 66 yards. But the Anclote transfer had a special performance against Mitchell, carrying 17 times for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Aratchiysky had scoring runs of 23 and 20 yards.|
|QB Brian Beeker, Springstead||Though he likes passing, Beeker rarely gets the opportunity in the Eagles' option offense. The dual-threat senior threw three touchdown passes in a 38-17 win over River Ridge and had 277 yards of total offense (161 rushing, 116 passing). He had only one TD pass going into the game.|
|RB Jordan Betancourt, Bishop McLaughlin||He was a lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal night in a 42-12 loss to St. Edwards. The junior returned a kickoff 95 yards for a first-quarter touchdown that gave Bishop McLaughlin its only lead.|
|WR Eddie Burgos, Sunlake||He was responsible for the first points in a 59-0 shutout of Zephyrhills, returning the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown. The sophomore added a 49-yard TD in the second quarter.|
|RB David Emmanuel, Pasco||Emmanuel rushed just five times in the 61-0 win against Anclote, but he gained 123 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 25 and 40 yards.|
|DB Pedro Estrada, Springstead||With the game still in doubt at 24-14 in the third quarter and River Ridge in the red zone, Estrada stripped the ball from FB Austin Schwarz and returned it 81 yards for a touchdown in a 38-17 win.|
|WR Will Irwin, Land O'Lakes||Irwin wasn't QB Stevie Weatherford's main target in a 49-3 rout of Wesley Chapel. That was Jason Tello, who had seven catches. Irwin, though, made the most of his five receptions, gaining 178 yards and scoring two touchdowns.|
|QB Jacob Jackson, Sunlake||Jackson completed only five passes against Zephyrhills, but four of them went for touchdowns, including 54- and 49-yard strikes. The senior also ran for two TDs, a 39-yarder and a 12-yarder.|
|QB Stevie Weatherford, Land O'Lakes||For the third straight game, Weatherford was involved in at least five touchdowns. In a 49-3 win over Wesley Chapel, he completed 15 of 23 passes for 333 yards and four scores. He added 64 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Weatherford has been a part of 30 touchdowns overall (24 passing, five rushing, one receiving).|
|DE Lou Wendelstedt, Springstead||A terror against offensive lines and quarterbacks all season, the senior sacked River Ridge QB Josh Maisel three times and hit him numerous other times.|