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New power structure may be taking shape

Blame it on the rain Okay, we know, that's more Milli Vanilli than anyone can stand. But how else can you explain last week's results?

Land O'Lakes destroyed Tarpon Springs after years of being spiked by the Spongers. River Ridge, which spent much of last year in negative yardage, won a game, and it was over traditional power Zephyrhills. Hudson beat Central. Springstead beat Gulf, 3-0 in overtime.

Weird, wacky stuff.

Maybe the monsoon-like conditions played a part. But more likely, there have been changes in the county's power structure that could be trend-setting for years to come. With a junior varsity team that's also undefeated, Land O'Lakes looks as if it has the right stuff for several seasons.

Speaking of trends, here we go again, looking beyond tonight's games and on down the line.

Since we last peered into the future, Land O'Lakes proved to be even stronger than anyone imagined, Zephyrhills and Gulf have proved that the damage was worse than we knew, and Pasco is still, well, Pasco.

Gulf: Alas, the Buccaneers have but one option to avoid going 0-8 through October: beat River Ridge tonight. Because after that, Gulf rounds out October with East Lake (Yikes!), Pasco (Aaaah!), and Land O'Lakes (Rut-roe!). After the Gators game on Oct. 30, the Bucs may not have to wear makeup to play corpses on Halloween.

Hudson: The Cobras split the first two games of their Hernando County series, losing to Springstead and beating district opponent Central. After a bye this week, Hudson closes it out by hosting Hernando High next week. It's a crucial 3A-7 game, and while Hudson will be an underdog, it has a shot.

With three wins under their belts and River Ridge and Lecanto left, the Cobras can at least break even. But the victory the Cobras need for a winning season would have to come over a tough team. The best chance for win No. 6 may be against Ridgewood in the season closer.

Land O'Lakes: The Gators should hope this bye week doesn't make them rusty, because if they continue to play the way they did against Tarpon Springs, they're going to improve to 8-0. Coming up: Ridgewood, Hudson, Gulf, Zephyrhills. Not one has shown the dominance Land O'Lakes has.

That leaves East Lake Nov. 13 and Pasco Nov. 20. If Land O'Lakes comes in 8-0, the first game will probably mean the district title, the Pasco game the conference title. Coach John Benedetto has been around too long to look past next Thursday's Ridgewood game, the most crucial matchup Land O'Lakes will have for a while.

Pasco: It didn't look as if the Pirates, ranked second in Class 3A, would be challenged until the Hernando game Oct. 30. But it turns out Hernando isn't nearly what it used to be, and that South Sumter could keep Pasco's hands full tonight. The Pirates might have a battle to extend their regular-season win streak to 15.

After that, Perry Brown should let his first string have a few Fridays off to improve their social lives. He won't need them.

River Ridge: Never again will we be able to call them the winless Royal Knights, which no doubt pleases coach Scott Schmitz. River Ridge deserved a win considering its improved status, but now it's time to win one on offense.

The Royal Knights are now 1-3, and they play Gulf tonight. The Bucs, Clearwater Central Catholic, and Lecanto are within reach. That's four wins. Can River Ridge beat Hudson, Springstead or Williston? Probably not, but don't count it out.

Submitted for your approval: A .500 season for River Ridge.

Probable? A definite no. Possible? A definite maybe.

Ridgewood: The 3-0 start was great, but Ridgewood probably kissed playoff hopes goodbye with last week's punishing loss to East Lake.

The Rams' only hope is next Thursday's game at Land O'Lakes. It's a longshot, especially playing at Gator Stadium, but a win at least would keep a shot at a district crown alive. If not, Ridgewood can still pull out a winning season with wins over Zephyrhills (tonight), Tarpon Springs and Springstead.

Zephyrhills: Straight up, the 0-4 Bulldogs can call it a season. Wins are going to be very hard to come by at this point, and it's quite possible Zephyrhills won't have a shot at a win until the final game against Gulf.

Best for the Bulldogs to get more experience under the belts of some underclassmen who have shown potential: juniors Kevin McLeod, Troy Canty and William Church, and sophomore Donnie Pinkerton.