Friday, January 19, 2018
Sports

Second season starts for four SouthShore and Brandon football teams

The second season starts tonight.

All the records and accolades from the regular season go out the window as the postseason kicks off this evening.

Mighty Armwood is undefeated but will likely be tested against a tough Venice team. Plant City's defense hopes it can slow Sickles' Ray Ray McCloud III, and East Bay promises to unleash a tremendous pass rush on Gaither QB Alex McGough. Spoto will go on the road looking to spoil Lake Wales' hopes.

It will take four wins to reach the Citrus Bowl and the state finals, but the first step starts tonight.

Venice (8-2) at Armwood (10-0)

Last week: Venice defeated Bayshore 41-8; Armwood defeated Strawberry Crest 40-6.

Why you should go: Armwood comes in with a perfect record, but this should prove to be a good test for the Hawks. Venice's losses came against nationally ranked Manatee (35-14) and a very good Largo (22-21) team. The Indians have scored at least 35 points seven times this season and rely heavily on the running game. Terry Polk (1,770 yards, 20 TDs) is Venice's feature back and likely the best RB the Hawks have seen all season. But the Hawks' defense has been outstanding this year, pitching three shutouts and not allowing any opponent to reach double digits.

Spoto (3-7) at Lake Wales (6-4)

Last week: Spoto defeated Leto 54-12; Lake Wales defeated Bartow 55-21.

Why you should go: The Highlanders are a battle-tested team that comes off a 2012 in which they reached the region final, knocking off Palmetto and Bradenton Southeast along the way. Lake Wales will look to pound the ball right at Spoto, led by tailback Justin Henderson (1,170 yards and 21 TDs). Shaka McGriff is Lake Wales' defensive leader, amassing 11 tackles for loss and six sacks this season. Like Spoto, Lake Wales comes in on a three-game winning streak.

Plant City (8-2) at Sickles (9-1)

Last week: Plant City defeated Gaither 28-20; Sickles defeated Alonso 34-30.

Why you should go: Plant City will face what is likely the best Sickles' team in school history tonight. The Gryphons' lone defeat this year came in a narrow 24-20 loss at Plant. Ray Ray McCloud III leads the county with 1,941 yards rushing. The shifty back has racked up five 200-plus yard games this season and scored 21 TDs. But Sickles is no one-trick pony on offense. Issac Holder has thrown for 1,426 yards and 16 TDs to just one INT. Holder's top targets are Chet Levay (43 catches, six TDs) and Jarron Barrett (32 catches, seven TDs). However Plant City's defense has been the strength of the team all season and it will be interesting to see which unit comes out on top.

Gaither (5-5) at East Bay (7-3)

Last week: Gaither lost to Plant City 28-20; East Bay DNP.

Why you should go: Gaither has been very uneven this year, beating Tampa Bay Tech but losing to Newsome and Durant. Quarterback Alex McGough is the focal point of the offense. The FIU commit has a big arm but also moves well outside the pocket. Jeff Suarez and Amani Oruwariye are McGough's main weapons in the Cowboy's pass-heavy offense. This should provide East Bay's pass rush plenty of opportunities. Eric Latortue and Marques Ford each have nine sacks for the Indians while Kameron Daniels' has 8.5.

Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]

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