Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Sports

Tampa Catholic, Jefferson, Robinson face tough football tests Friday

All signs point to another strong year for high school football in south and central Tampa.

Though Plant struggled in its first game last week, it was against a defending state champion in Tallahassee Godby. And Hillsborough, Jefferson and Robinson all look to have the talent for a deep playoff run. But it's possible that only one of them will make the playoffs because of the district realignment of 5A-8, which includes perennial powerhouse Armwood and now includes Robinson.

Jesuit is on the other end of the spectrum, going from a nine-team group that included Lakewood and Robinson to a three-team group of the Tigers, Middleton and Spoto. That figures to be a much easier road to the playoffs. But the Tigers aren't taking it easy.

Here's a look at this week's contests. Hillsborough is idle (and jumps right into it against Jefferson in Week 2).

Madison County at Tampa Catholic

Last week: Madison defeated Live Oak Suwanee 20-14; TC lost to Sickles 34-20.

Why you should go: To see if the Crusaders can get some revenge for the 2007 state title loss. Tampa Catholic may be in for a tough night, but it won't be intimidated. After a slow start last week, TC got the offense going with Kyle Ploucher tossing a pair of second-half touchdowns.

Jefferson at Alonso

Last week: Jefferson defeated Plant City 48-26; Alonso lost to King 20-18.

Why you should go: To see what could be one of those 49-48 games. Jefferson put on a show in its preseason game. QB Deiondre Porter going 10-of-13 for 253 yards. Ventell Bryant caught two of Porter's TDs, one for 85 yards. And the Dragons have a new running back in sophomore Mondreas Lofton, who had nine carries for 143 yards, a long TD run and a 92-yard kickoff return score. Alonso's numbers weren't quite as prolific, but the Ravens still have threats in RB Ish Witter and receiver Marcus Mosely.

Sickles at Robinson

Last week: Sickles defeated TC 34-20; Robinson defeated Seminole Osceola 51-6.

Why you should go: To see what probably will be a high-scoring thriller. Hand it to new Robinson head coach Shawn Taylor. With the Knights opening an eight-game district haul against Jefferson and Armwood, he's preparing his team with a couple of really tough opponents (Robinson is at Plant next week). Though not as loaded as the 2012 state semifinal team, Robinson will still be a tough beat. Sickles comes in with all eyes on Ray Ray McCloud, who ran for three touchdowns and added two more on returns last week. This will be a treat.

Newsome at Tampa Bay Tech

Last week: Newsome did not play; TBT defeated Blake 56-0.

Why you should go: Because — and this is big news — the Titans have a passing game. While Tampa Bay Tech's turnaround from doormat to annual playoff team has been impressive, the Titans haven't progressed far in the postseason mostly due to a one-dimensional approach. But if Deon Cain's five-touchdown performance last week is a sign of things to come, watch out. Newsome comes off an impressive run to the region finals, but has major shoes to fill with the departure of Navy signee QB/LB Will Worth.

Brandon at Blake

Last week: Brandon beat Lakewood Ranch 23-21; Blake lost to Tampa Bay Tech 56-0.

Why you should go: Blake should be a lot more competitive this week. Corey Bennett was a bright spot with 62 yards on 18 carries and freshman Juwan Burgess led the Jackets with 11 tackles. Brandon, meanwhile, enters with a big pep in its step after coming back to beat Lakewood Ranch on a long touchdown pass in the final minute.

Jesuit at Hardee

Last week: Jesuit defeated Palm Harbor 19-14; Hardee was off.

Why you should go: Because you love the Tigers. Hardee isn't exactly right around the corner. With only two district games, the Tigers have eight slots to fill on their schedule. And they picked some tough ones, including this opener. Later, Jesuit goes up against Lakewood Ranch, Largo, Clearwater Central Catholic and tough foes from Ocala and Orlando.

Middleton at Berkeley Prep

Last week: Middleton lost to Strawberry Crest 30-0; Berkeley Prep defeated Gulf 23-7

Why you should go: Middleton had few highlights, namely a Tiquan Brown 75-yard run that lead to no points, and a couple of players going out to injury last week. But it's always worth making the trip to Berkeley, just to check out a truly neat set of athletic facilities (walk into the volleyball/basketball building when you get a chance). And the Bucs look pretty strong again. The Tigers have seven nondistrict games before playing Spoto and Jesuit back-to-back to decide who will be the playoff qualifiers.

King at Freedom

Last week: King defeated Alonso 20-18; King lost to Bloomingdale 30-14.

Why you should go: To see what promises to be a tight game. King got a pick-me-up with a late defensive touchdown to surprise Alonso, but didn't have much going offensively. Freedom has a big-time player in defensive lineman Scott Patchan.

Comments
A win, a few doubts

A win, a few doubts

MELBOURNE, Australia — One fine match does not make a comeback.Novak Djokovic’s elbow or some other body part may get sore again as the rallies and the serves pile up. His confidence, rattled before he took his involuntary six-month break from the ga...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Dale Jr., man about town

Dale Jr., man about town

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nearly every day brings a new experience for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who spent the first 43 years of his life living in a bubble that consisted of NASCAR and not much else. Now that he has retired from full-time racing, he can experien...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Sports in brief

SOCCERenglish first: GOAL COUNTS as video overturns callIn a first for English soccer, a goal was awarded thanks to the intervention of a video assistant referee as Leicester advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Tuesday. Kelechi Iheanacho’s ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Baseball in the rear-view mirror for Redskins assistant James Rowe III

Baseball in the rear-view mirror for Redskins assistant James Rowe III

ST. PETERSBURG — The East-West Shrine Game is loaded with long shots, small-school standouts and unlikely stars trying to find their way to the NFL.It's only fitting that James Rowe III is coaching them this week.Even when he was still on a bas...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Captain’s Corner: Devise a strategy before heading out into the cold

The quality of fishing this month depends on how many cold fronts are in our future. When the water creeps down below 60 degrees, many fish will slow their metabolism in order to survive. They require less food than in the warmer months, making some ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
How the Lightning ‘practices’ without practicing

How the Lightning ‘practices’ without practicing

TAMPA – The Lightning is scheduled to take the ice late Wednesday morning at Amalie Arena to do something it hasn't done since, well, last year.Practice.You have to go back to Dec. 27, the day the Lightning returned from the Christmas brea...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Former Armwood, UCF star Aaron Evans feeling ‘amazing’ after surgery

Former Armwood, UCF star Aaron Evans feeling ‘amazing’ after surgery

Even in a magical season devoid of defeat, UCF senior LT Aaron Evans still experienced agony.Which might be too mild a word. At times, the Armwood High alumnus said, the back pain he experienced this past fall reached "excruciating" levels."Some game...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs LB Kwon Alexander headed to Pro Bowl

Bucs LB Kwon Alexander headed to Pro Bowl

Kwon Alexander is headed to the Pro Bowl.The third-year Bucs linebacker, who led the NFL in solo tackles a year ago, was announced Tuesday as an injury replacement for Seattle's Bobby Wagner.Alexander, 23, won't have to go far, as the game is back in...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Spoiler alert: What happens after Minnesota Miracle and the like

Spoiler alert: What happens after Minnesota Miracle and the like

Did you see it?Tell me it wasn't the craziest ending you ever saw. Tell me you didn't blurt out some sort of version of "Oh my gosh!'' Tell me you didn't keep questioning if you really saw what you just saw.It was play so remarkable that it immediate...
Updated: 7 hours ago
HomeTeam 25: Girls basketball rankings for Tampa Bay

HomeTeam 25: Girls basketball rankings for Tampa Bay

1. Alonso (14-1)This week: Wednesday vs. Tampa Bay Tech, Friday at RiverviewThe buzz: The Ravens picked up a big win last week against Plant. They are very well-rounded. Jacquelyn LeVay is one of the best guards in the area. And under the basket, sen...
Updated: 7 hours ago