Saturday, March 17, 2018

Tampa Catholic, Berkeley Prep set for gridiron clash

Best. Week. Off. Ever.

Tampa Catholic was the lone City Times area team to sit at home for Week 7, and all the Crusaders did was jump up to No. 1 in the state in Class 3A.

Meanwhile, Plant did some good on-field work to up its status. Aside from rankings, there are the district standings, which actually determine who is headed to the playoffs. Tampa Catholic and Plant are in good shape but have not locked up anything.

The next three weeks are for that. Week 8 is the first of a critical stretch for so many, and it's likely some playoff spots won't be determined for another couple of Fridays.

All kickoffs scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Tampa Catholic (5-1, 2-0 in District 3A-4) at Berkeley Prep (2-3, 0-2)

Last week: Both teams were idle.

Why you should go: This could be a much closer game the records, and now state rankings, would tend to indicate. Berkeley's first district loss was by a field goal to 6-0 Lakeland Christian. And there has no been rougher loss suffered all year by a Tampa team then when the Buccaneers fell to Fort Meade. Having taken a 21-17 lead with just 23 seconds left, the Bucs lost when Fort Meade hit a 44-yard touchdown pass on the last play. A win there has Berkeley playing for first place Friday, but instead it's in must-win mode. TC certainly has earned its top ranking, starting with that win over CCC in overtime. The Crusaders came into the top spot thanks to a loss by No. 1 Trinity Christian (Jacksonville).

Newsome (4-3, 1-1 in 8A-6) at Plant (5-1-1, 2-0)

Last week: Newsome defeated Durant 9-3; Plant defeated Sickles 24-20.

Why you should go: Plant pulled off an absolutely thrilling, last-minute win over undefeated Sickles but faces another big challenge this week. The Panthers can't afford to turn it over against Newsome, a team that can grind the game down to a snail's pace and frustrate its opponent.

Jefferson (5-1, 4-1 in 6A-8) at King (5-2, 2-2)

Last week: Jefferson defeated Lennard 55-13; King defeated Robinson 24-0.

Why you should go: To reward a Lions team that has earned it. King was impressive in its shutout of Robinson last week, and it would be equally impressive if it can keep the Dragons to below — let's say — 28 points. In fact, we'll go so far to say if King can do that a big upset could happen. But Jefferson has the most dynamic offense in Tampa.

Robinson (2-5, 2-3 in 6A-8) at Chamberlain (4-3, 4-1)

Last week: Robinson lost to King 24-0; Chamberlain lost to Hillsborough 22-21.

Why you should go: The Chiefs showed last week that they are a dangerous team. Unfortunately for them, they could not hold on to a 14-0 lead against Hillsborough. With games still to come against Jefferson and Armwood, the Chiefs control their playoff fate. But Robinson should be able to hang close.

Freedom (1-5, 0-2 in 7A-7) at Tampa Bay Tech (5-1, 2-0)

Last week: Freedom was idle; TBT defeated Plant City 38-21.

Why you should go: To see what Fred Russ' next trick is. The Titans' linebacker was all over the place against a strong Plant City team, recording three sacks and getting one of TBT's three non-offensive scores. The Titans picked up two votes in the latest Class 7A rankings, but we have a feeling they'll be top 10 before the playoffs start. Freedom has played respectably against teams like Wharton, Gaither and Strawberry Crest, but just does not have much offensive firepower, topping out at 17 points in a win against Middleton.

Hillsborough (4-2, 4-2 in 6A-8) at Blake (2-5, 2-3)

Last week: Hillsborough defeated Chamberlain 22-21, Blake lost to Middleton 26-21.

Why you should go: The Terriers are one of the most entertaining teams to watch, although not always in ways that are good for their fans' hearts. Hillsborough pulled off its second straight late rally. This time, the Terriers went 99 yards in the last 3:30 to tie it. And with their starting kicker injured, the Terriers turned to Lawrence Dawsey to kick the tiebreaking point. After having its playoff hopes severely dashed quite early in the season, Hillsborough has taken to inflicting that pain on others.

Middleton (1-5) at Leto (0-6)

Last week: Middleton defeated Blake 26-21, Leto lost to Armwood 74-0.

Why you should go: To see the Tigers likely win a second in a row. That sure seems likely against a Leto team that has been dominated every time out this season. Tigers QB Marcellus Ray had a big night against Blake with 234 yards and three TDs.

Jesuit (4-3) at Bishop Moore (5-1)

Last week: Jesuit defeated Trinity Catholic 36-34; Bishop Moore lost to Oviedo Hagerty 40-13

Why you should go: To see a possible region final preview. Though not official yet, both of these squads are playoff bound and almost certain district champs in 5A-Region 3, which contains only one top 10 team (No. 5 Merritt Island).

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