We all knew Plant City was good heading into last week's district meeting with Durant.
How good? The Raiders pasted the Cougars 43-12 and made a huge statement, going 5-0 for the first time since 1998 and taking control of Class 7A, District 8.
Tonight presents another (supposedly) tough matchup, against Alonso, but the Raiders look like one of the best teams in the county at the midway point of the season.
Plant City wasn't the only team to make a splash last week. Brandon, which had been allowing 37 points a game on defense, shut out Newsome 34-0, forcing three turnovers and turning the Wolves over three times on downs. Oh yeah, and let's not forget those plucky Crusaders from Seffner Christian. The second-year program doubled its win total of 2010 with its fourth victory of the season, an impressive 42-6 thumping of Jacksonville Temple Christian.
All games kick off at 7:30 p.m. unless noted.
Alonso (5-0) at Plant City (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Alonso beat Bloomingdale 20-14; Plant City defeated Durant 43-12.
THE SKINNY: This ranks as the area's premier matchup with a pair of undefeated teams squaring off. Plant City dismantled crosstown rival Durant 43-12 and in the process unveiled another weapon. Antwon Armstrong picked off three passes on defense and had three catches for 81 yards and a score on offense. Quarterback Bennie Coney continues to impress, going 13-of-15 for 377 yards and five TDs against a solid Cougars defense. Alonso has relied on the Brandons (RB Brandon Holloway and QB Brandon Hawkins) all season, but Hawkins injured his shoulder last week and may be questionable.
Plant (5-0) at Brandon (2-3)
LAST WEEK: Plant defeated Wharton 37-19; Brandon defeated Newsome 34-0.
THE SKINNY: Brandon could certainly be 4-1 heading in to tonight's matchup with Plant. The Eagles lost to Durant and Sickles by a combined 15 points and had the biggest splash win of last week, pounding Newsome 34-0. Rightfully so, Eagles running back Tyrell Garner gets most of the press. But fellow backfield mate Cyrus Dooley emerged as a threat, running for 147 yards and three TDs against the Wolves. Plant is Plant, which means they will be well-coached and commit few mistakes. Brandon will have to play at its best to pull off the upset.
Strawberry Crest (0-5) at Armwood (6-0)
LAST WEEK: Strawberry Crest lost to King 49-7 Sept. 30; Armwood defeated Sickles 35-0.
THE SKINNY: The good news is Strawberry Crest had two weeks to prepare for Armwood after the bye last Friday. The bad news is they still have to play Armwood tonight. Expect a running clock early as the Hawks celebrate homecoming.
Leto (0-6) at Bloomingdale (3-3)
LAST WEEK: Leto lost to Armwood 68-0; Bloomingdale lost to Alonso 20-14.
THE SKINNY: The Bulls lost a tough game to a very good Alonso team last week but continue their impressive turnaround after a two-win 2010 campaign. Tonight is a golden opportunity for the Bulls to get over .500.
Durant (3-2) at Chamberlain (0-5)
LAST WEEK: Durant lost to Plant City 43-12; Chamberlain lost to Freedom 14-7.
THE SKINNY: Durant gave up 22 second-half points in its rivalry loss to Plant City last week. Struggling Chamberlain has seen standout RB Xavier Johnson leave two of the last three games early with injuries. After being forced out with cramps in a game last month, a high ankle sprain sidelined him in the loss to Freedom. He may be hobbled if he plays tonight.
Blake (2-4) at Spoto (2-3)
LAST WEEK: Blake defeated Middleton 41-19; Spoto defeated Dunedin 14-7.
THE SKINNY: Spoto's speed on the defensive side of the ball was evident last week against Dunedin. The unit pitched a shutout, with the lone Dunedin points coming off a fumble return for a TD. Spoto's Geronimo Allison tossed a 30-yard TD pass and hauled in a 2-yard score against the Falcons. That speed should help again even though Blake is coming off its first win in four years against rival Middleton.
Gaither (3-2) at East Bay (3-2)
LAST WEEK: Gaither defeated Steinbrenner 37-7; East Bay defeated Riverview 38-6.
THE SKINNY: After winning just one game last year, East Bay has a legitimate shot at .500 this season. The Indians scored on five of their six first-half possessions against Riverview and built a 32-0 halftime lead that eventually led to a running clock in the third quarter. Under new coach Jason Stokes, the Cowboys have been up and down but showed a lot last week in knocking off Steinbrenner.
Steinbrenner (3-2) at Riverview (2-3)
LAST WEEK: Steinbrenner lost to Gaither 37-7; Riverview lost to East Bay 38-6.
THE SKINNY: The Sharks have dropped their last three by a combined 136-6, including a pair of shutouts. Chase Freeman's 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter against East Bay last week prevented a third straight shutout. Steinbrenner will be eager to rebound after losing to neighborhood rival Gaither.
Shorecrest Prep (2-3) at Seffner Christian (4-1)
LAST WEEK: Shorecrest defeated St. Stephen's Episcopal 42-27; Seffner Christian defeated Jacksonville Temple Christian 42-6.
THE SKINNY: Seffner Christian won its fourth consecutive game last week. The Crusaders have scored 42 points or more in three of the four games during that stretch. Seth Lewis rushed for a pair of TDs against the Soldiers while quarterback Tanner Richardson ran for one and tossed another. A win against a tough Shorecrest team will ensure the Crusaders first .500 season in school history.
Lennard (1-5) at Lakewood (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Lennard lost to Jesuit 78-0; Lakewood defeated Gibbs 27-7.
THE SKINNY: The Longhorns endured a long loss last week, allowing nine rushing touchdowns against Jesuit. Lennard will need to strengthen its rush defense in a hurry, but if it loads the box with eight defenders the Spartans may counter with an aerial attack that produced three touchdowns in the victory over Gibbs last week. Lakewood QB Tracy Johnson (15 TDs, 3 INTs) could end up having a big night.