Monday, April 23, 2018
Sports

It's a don't-miss night for many gridiron matchups

TAMPA

Turns out last week's innocent-looking schedule provided a couple of near-whopper upsets. Really, when was the last time both Armwood and Plant almost lost to county teams? We can't remember. • Well, if you thought last week was entertaining, get a load of tonight. Plant actually may have a challenge to its district title. Toss in a little bad blood (maybe a lot?) between the Panthers and Wharton and their matchup jumps off the page. • But that isn't the only solid option for those not sure where to head. The only in-city team off this week is Robinson, which is 5-0. (We apologize for saying last week that Robinson was coming off its bye … we know, the Knights rolled Lennard 63-6. Guess we have a soft spot for Lennard). • Here's a look at some of the dandies lined up for Week 6. • All kickoffs are 7:30 tonight.

Jefferson (1-3, 0-1 in 6A-8) at Hillsborough (4-0, 2-0)

Last week: Jefferson lost to Armwood 35-21; Hillsborough defeated Leto 65-0.

Why you should go: Because this game just got a lot more interesting after what happened last Friday. That 0-1 Dragons district mark is quite misleading at the moment, as that defeat was to Armwood — but in a game Jefferson was up 21-0. Quarterback Deiondre Porter had a tremendous first half before succumbing in the second, but who knows how the game would have gone had the Dragons not given Armwood a touchdown on a dropped punt with a 21-7 lead? Sure, Hillsborough may show that Jefferson's performance was a bit of a fluke and have no problems in this one. But if the Dragons pull the upset, guess who starts to look like a playoff team?

Middleton (1-4, 1-3 in 5A-8) at Blake (1-4, 0-4)

Last week: Middleton lost to Lakewood 54-3; Blake lost to Robinson 49-0.

Why you should go: Because you can throw out season records when one of the best traditional rivalries in the city unfolds. Both teams actually hung tough for the first quarter and a half before getting run over by the two 5A-8 powerhouses last week. They're pretty evenly matched this year, so it might end up being one of the more enjoyable games on the schedule.

Plant (3-1) at Wharton (3-1)

Last week: Plant defeated Tampa Bay Tech 21-14; Wharton lost to Durant 13-12.

Why you should go: With all due respect to the other two teams in Class 8A, District 6 (Alonso and Bloomingdale), this matchup is likely for home field in the first round of the playoffs. Wharton is expected to give the Panthers their first even remotely challenging district game in recent memory. The chance is certainly there, one would think, after Plant lost starting quarterback Aaron Banks and had big-time problems on offense without him. But Plant's defense will give it a chance no matter the opponent. The curiosity will be what Wharton chooses to do on extra points, as it went for two twice last week, and of course would have won 14-13 with two successful kicks against Durant.

And did we mention bad blood? Wharton's fans ruffled many a Plant supporter's feathers with their antics at a volleyball match recently. So yeah, this one is intriguing at the highest level.

Tampa Catholic (5-0, 1-1 in 3A-5) at Clearwater Central Catholic (4-1, 0-0)

Last week: TC defeated Lake Highland Prep 52-14; CCC defeated Cardinal Mooney 17-7.

Why you should go: First off, the facility at CCC is tremendous. But the game should be, too. Remember the other playoff contender in this four-team district is Berkeley Prep, last year's champ, so neither team wants to drop this one. The Crusaders just keep getting better, as evidenced by the overwhelming of their Orlando foe last week. TC forced six turnovers with back-to-back scoring plays by the defense. And if QB Kyle Ploucher wants to start playing that (19-of-25, 225 yards, three TDs) then look out. CCC is led by playmaker Trey Larry.

Leto (0-5, 0-2 in 6A-8) at King (1-4, 1-1)

Last week: Leto lost to Hillsborough 65-0; King defeated Strawberry Crest 28-16

Why you should go: To see the newest discovery in Tampa football — the King offense. It showed up just in time to at least spark up some hope off Sligh Avenue, as the Lions got a breakout game by QB Kenyatta Young. It also managed eight sacks against a West Coast offense, no small feat. A 2-1 district record is there to be had for King.

Jesuit (3-2, 3-1 in 5A-8) at Lennard (0-4, 0-2)

Last week: Jesuit defeated Spoto 45-0; Lennard lost to Berkeley Prep 31-19.

Why you should go: Ruskin is lovely this time of year. And much like King did, the Tigers realized it's OK to help out the "D" with some quality playmaking on offense. Look for plenty more of it this week, but don't discount the Longhorns after they gave Berkeley a test. Victor Williams had touchdown runs of 75, 66 and 50 yards, so Jesuit might want to keep an eye on that kid.

Tampa Bay Tech (3-2, 1-0 in 7A-7) at Wiregrass Ranch (0-4, 0-1)

Last week: TBT lost to Plant 21-14; Wiregrass Ranch was idle.

Why you should go: Who doesn't like the Shops at Wiregrass Ranch? And after catching some deals and maybe grabbing a bite, head down to the high school to see the Titans likely rack up their second district victory. The Bulls haven't won since the 2010 season and should be no match for TBT, especially after it gave Plant a major scare, leading the Panthers 14-0 before falling.

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