Friday, November 24, 2017

Pinellas: Sunday morning quarterback


Super 7

1. Largo (6-0, 2-0): Didn't have to break much of a sweat in a shutout victory over Dixie Hollins that was called in the third quarter because of rain.

2. Countryside (5-1, 2-0): By throttling Northeast, the Cougars showed who is still the boss in Class 7A-9.

3. Lakewood (5-0, 4-0): The Spartans blanked Gibbs and have allowed just nine points this season.

4. East Lake (4-2, 1-0): Needed a rally to pull away from North Port to stay in driver's seat for the Class 8A-7 district title.

5. Clearwater Central Catholic (5-1, 1-0): Played perhaps their best game of the season in a rout over Class 3A-5 rival Tampa Catholic.

6. Pinellas Park (4-1, 2-0): Patriots have the same record at this point as they did last season when they made the playoffs.

7. Palm Harbor U. (4-2, 1-0): Running game and defense helped Hurricanes get off to a good start in 8A-7 with a win over Sarasota Riverview.

Five things we learned

1. This is the year of the defense. The top three teams in the Super 7 (Largo, Countryside and Lakewood) all recorded shutouts. Two others in the rankings (CCC and Pinellas Park) allowed seven points or fewer. All of those teams are allowing 12 points or fewer per game. There are a lot of quarterbacks and receivers with flashy stats, but it's the defenses that are getting the job done.

2. Indian Rocks Christian is for real. After losing the opening game to Calvary Christian, the Golden Eagles have rattled off four straight wins, including a huge one at Admiral Farragut on Friday night. QB Matt Kulaga threw for a touchdown and ran for two others against the Blue Jackets. IRC coach Mark Buchanan is an early candidate for coach of the year.

3. If Palm Harbor University runs, it wins. The Hurricanes racked up 257 rushing yards in a 35-9 win over Sarasota Riverview. Jonah Fiskaa gained 100 yards and Quentin Cumings added 70. PHU relies on defense and its running game, which are going to be crucial down the stretch.

4. Pinellas Park still is a playoff contender. The Patriots don't do anything flashy, but they rely on defense and just enough offense to get by. District foes should not take them lightly.

5. Tyler Serpo is a special teams demon. The Countryside defensive back blocked his second punt in the past three games to set up a short touchdown run for the Cougars against Northeast. Serpo also has a team-leading three interceptions this season.

Offensive MVP

Mike Jerrido, Countryside: Using the ground game to keep Northeast's offense off the field, the Cougars piled up 265 yards rushing. Jerrido was the main benefactor, running for a team-high 122 yards on 12 carries and scoring two touchdowns.

Defensive MVP

Canaan Brown, Clearwater Central Catholic: The linebacker wreaked havoc in Tampa Catholic's backfield with 12 tackles, including three for loss. His performance was a big reason the Marauders won in the key Class 3A, District 5 game.

Breakout player

Matt Kulaga, Indian Rocks Christian: Since taking over as the starting quarterback early in the season opener, Kulaga has showed steady progress. Against defending Class 2A state finalist Admiral Farragut, Kulaga had his best game of the season, throwing for one touchdown and running for two more to help the Golden Eagles pull off the upset.

Three thoughts for the week

1. Tampa Catholic at Northeast is a nonconference game with much more meaning. Both teams got hammered Friday night and need a win to gain confidence. The Vikings had only 49 yards in a 49-0 loss at Countryside, and the Crusaders were dominated 27-7 by CCC.

2. Osceola-Clearwater is a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the county. Both teams have won two straight. If the Warriors win, they'll be above .500 and still have a legitimate chance to earn a playoff spot in Class 6A-7 as the district runnerup.

3. Class 2A, District 5 is a mess. At the start of the season, it seemed Admiral Farragut and Carrollwood Day were locks for playoff spots. But with IRC's upset of the Blue Jackets, everything is in flux. Five of the nine teams have one district loss, meaning every game matters starting this week.

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