HomeTeam 15: Football power rankings, Week 3

Plant running back Walter Wilbon races in for a third-quarter touchdown  last season against Bartram Trail. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Plant running back Walter Wilbon races in for a third-quarter touchdown last season against Bartram Trail. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Published September 4 2018
Updated September 4 2018

It is a topsy-turvy season. Two teams that were winless at this point a year ago (Bloomingdale, Plant City) are now undefeated. Other teams many thought would be dominant (Hillsborough, Jefferson and Largo) have not been consistent through the first two weeks. That caused quite a bit of reshuffling — again. Biggest climber? Bloomingdale, which moved up five spots into the top three. Free falling? Hillsborough, which started the season at No. 5, fell out.

Elite status

1. Plant (2-0)

Up next: vs. Armwood

Last week's spot: No. 1

Why they stayed put: The Panthers have a first-year starting quarterback, but it's hard to tell looking at the scoreboard each week. Plant is averaging 42 points per game. The running game has particularly strong, led by Walter Wilbon III. The senior has continued his tear from the season last year, rushing for 203 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-6 win over South Tampa rival Robinson. Leonard Parker also had a nice game with four receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown against the Knights. After allowing 28 points to Hillsborough in the opening week, the Panthers' defense tightened up, giving up just six to Robinson. Plant had seven sacks, including two each by Jerico Dejesus, Will Putnam and Jared Valdes.

2. Tampa Bay Tech (1-0)

Up next: at Sickles

Last week's spot: No. 2

Why they stayed put: The Titans had an extra week to relish their 20-12 win over powerhouse Armwood in the season opener. But they also needed that time to prepare for another tough contest. Sickles is 2-0 after beating Alonso and Durant to start the season. Expect a low-scoring game. Tampa Bay Tech's defense recorded six sacks and forced two turnovers (an interception and fumble) against the Hawks. On offense, the Titans will rely heavily on Treshaun Ward and Xavier Freeman in the ground game.

3. Bloomingdale (2-0)

Up next: vs. Middleton

Last week's spot: No. 8

Why they moved up: The Bulls have gone through a remarkable turnaround. After starting 0-2 last year, Bloomingdale is now undefeated to start the season. Better still, the Bulls have yet to allow a point, recording shutouts against Newsome (42-0) and Chamberlain (32-0). The biggest difference is the number of players available. Last season, the Bulls were a depleted bunch with players either dealing with injuries or suspensions the first two weeks. Bloomingdale was without seven players in last year's 50-27 loss to Chamberlain. While the defense has grabbed the headlines early on, the offense has showed its versatility. Charles Montgomery had 51 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 11 carries against the Chiefs. He also had five catches for 92 yards and another score.

Bloomingdale’s Charles Montgomery (10) pushes through Chamberlain’s defense for a touchdown during the first half last week. (TAILYR IRVINE | Times)

4. Armwood (0-1)

Up next: at Plant

Last week's spot: No. 4

Why they stayed put: The bye week came at an opportune time, allowing the Hawks to regroup from a season-opening loss to Tampa Bay Tech. The task is tough this week with an away against Plant in a game that is always one of the most anticipated of the season. A win would give Armwood a huge lift and the confidence needed to get through one of the area's most difficult schedules. Another loss and the Hawks will be 0-2 on the field for the first time in more than two decades. The defense has to slow the Panthers' high-scoring attack. The offense has to generate more than the three points it scored in the opener (special teams accounted for the rest).

5. Pinellas Park (2-0)

Up next: at Osceola

Last week's spot: No. 8

Why they stayed put: Another week, another lopsided shutout for the Patriots. So far this season, Pinellas Park has outscored its foes by a combined 86-0. The latest rout was against Northeast (44-0). Lawrance Toafili (136 yards, two touchdowns) and Derek Bryant (130 yards, one touchdown) each had a big night running the ball. But the Patriots also showed off their balance with Brandon Coppola completing 8 of 9 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. The two wins have come against teams that are a combined 0-3. It should be another easy week for Pinellas Park against Osceola.

Movers and shakers

6. Clearwater Central Catholic (2-0)

Up next: at Tampa Catholic

Last week's spot: No. 6

Why they stayed put: For the second straight week, the offense put up big numbers. Rory Hicks threw for 237 yards and a touchdown. Jerjuan Newton had 161 total yards (122 receiving, 39 rushing) and scored twice. In all, the Marauders racked up 415 yards of offense in a 42-20 win over Sarasota Cardinal Mooney. CCC has now won 15 straight regular-season games, a streak that dates to 2016. But the Marauders have to be careful. The last time they had a 15-game regular-season streak, it was snapped with a loss to rival Tampa Catholic. Guess which team CCC plays this week? The Crusaders.

7. Chamberlain (1-1)

Up next: At Riverview

Last week's spot: No. 3

Why they moved up: The one-game suspension of quarterback Tyler Riddell was a significant blow for the Chiefs, who had a week to get their backups, Bruce Jackson and Jayqwan Hall, up to speed. Chamberlain was not able to generate much on offense in a shutout loss against Bloomingdale, a team the Chiefs beat 50-27 a year ago. The good news is that Riddell is back this week against Riverview. Chamberlain still has time to get back into a rhythm before facing Armwood in a key Class 6A, District 7 game in two weeks.

8. Plant City (2-0)

Up next: vs. Wharton

Last week's spot: No. 12

Why they moved up: Break up the Raiders. After starting the season unranked, Plant City has moved up rapidly, thanks to wins over Jefferson (19-14) and Hillsborough (17-7), two teams that made the playoffs a year ago. The Raiders lost to both in 2017. The difference is the play of the defense, which has gotten over the injury bug from last year and has really come together under second-year coach James Booth. Plant City quarterback Braxton Plunk also has been key. The senior has thrown for a combined 496 yards and two touchdowns the first two weeks.

Plant City quarterback Braxton Plunk gives the Raiders key senior leadership. (Times file, 2017)

9. Jesuit (1-0)

Up next: vs. Steinbrenner

Last week's spot: No. 11

Why they moved up: The Tigers had a bye, but they go up two spots because they are still undefeated and two teams above them both lost last week. This week's game against Steinbrenner could be a defensive slugfest. Jesuit allowed seven points in its season-opening win against Durant. The Warriors, meanwhile, have allowed a combined 15 points in their first two games (a win against Freedom and a loss to Jefferson).

10. Zephyrhills (2-0)

Up next: vs. Lake Gibson

Last week's spot: No. 13

Why they moved in: Since returning to his alma mater, Nick Carroll is undefeated against Sunlake, where he was an assistant for nine years. The latest triumph came last week with the Bulldogs hitting a field goal in overtime to win 10-7. Though Zephyrhills remains unbeaten, there still is work to be done. The Bulldogs needed to rally to beat Wiregrass Ranch the opening week and had to hold off the Seahawks in the second half and in overtime. The biggest test comes this week with a home against powerhouse Lake Gibson.

Staying within striking distance

11. Clearwater (1-1)

Up next: vs. Countryside

Last week's spot: No. 11

Why they moved down: There is no shame in losing to Braden River, a program that consistently makes deep playoff runs. The Tornadoes had a 14-0 first-quarter lead that was wiped away in a 42-35 loss. Qwa'shaun Perry ran for 92 yards and two touchdowns, and Rent Montie threw for 243 yards and two scores. This week, Clearwater gets another challenge from undefeated Countryside in a rivalry game.

12. St. Petersburg (2-0)

Up next: at Boca Ciega

Last week's spot: Unranked

Why they moved in: The Green Devils were undefeated a year ago, but this strong start was not exactly expected, at least to those on the outside. St. Petersburg was supposed to be rebuilding after losing stars such as athlete Jalynn Williams (Toledo) and defensive back Anthony Johnson (Iowa State). The 1-2 punch of Derrel Kelley and Au'mhryaun Brown has been effective, and the defense has been opportunistic. The results are wins against Largo and Lakewood, two teams that made the playoffs a year ago.

13. Mitchell (2-0)

Up next: Bye

Last week's spot: Unranked

Why they moved in: Much like St. Petersburg (see above), the Mustangs were supposed to be down after losing so many key pieces from last year's team that went undefeated in the regular season. That is not the case. Mitchell not only is undefeated, but it has also not allowed a point through the first two weeks. The latest shutout came against rival River Ridge to extend the Mustangs' regular-season win streak to 15 games. Nick Ferrini had 17 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Teammate Stuart Sherrell had 15 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Mitchell’s Nick Ferrini has been a monster on defense so far this season. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)

14. Largo (1-1)

Up next: vs. Palm Harbor University

Last week's spot: Unranked

Why they moved in: The Packers were a trendy pick to do big things this year. Their loaded roster got a boost with the addition of several transfers. And Largo had the luxury of playing nearly its entire regular-season schedule at home after traveling because of sod issues last season. Then came the opener. The Packers were stunned by St. Petersburg. But Largo did not dwell over the loss and regrouped to beat East Lake last week.

15. Jefferson (1-1)

Up next: at Brandon

Last week's spot: No. 14

Why they moved down: The Dragons have not been that impressive through the first two weeks. They lost to Plant City in the opener and needed a goal-line stand to seal a win against Steinbrenner. The offense, which has a slew of talent at the skill positions, is averaging just 13 points per game. It is the play of the defense that has kept Jefferson in contention so far.

On the bubble

Hillsborough (0-2), East Lake (1-1), Tampa Catholic (2-0), Lakewood (1-1), Sickles (2-0), Wiregrass Ranch (1-1), Nature Coast (1-1)