With Sarasota Riverview finally mortal (okay, so it was a forfeit, but who's quibbling) the upcoming intra-Pinellas 5A-8 clashes are looking more and more interesting.
Take Clearwater and Dixie Hollins; which pits the cardiac Tornadoes, winners of their past three games by a total of 10 points, against the first-place Rebels, 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the district. For these two, this past weekend's games were kind of mini-previews of next week's meeting at Clearwater.
Clearwater's defense, which will have to contend with a balanced Dixie attack, passed an early pop exam in its 16-14 win over Tarpon Springs. They held the Spongers to 69 yards on the ground, and four first downs in the first half. Linebacker Eric Faison had the play of the night when he blasted the ball loose from Spongers quarterback Kris Wilson at the Clearwater 38 with just over a minute remaining in the game.
"I felt that if I kept coming hard from the outside, I would get him," said Faison, who also ran for 102 yards. "He had his back to me with his arm up _ he was right there."
The Tornadoes linebackers, led by Justin Johnson and Duane Bodette, sacked Wilson five times, and their defense forced four fumbles. Defensive lineman Ryan Young recovered two of them, and Jason Fuller recovered the last.
"We are already pumped for Dixie," Faison said. "They are going to have some trouble."
Dixie, meanwhile, will see plenty of running Tornadoes quarterback Philip Nash, who had 150 yards rushing Friday. They prepared for the showdown with Nash by stopping another talented double-threat passer, Pinellas Park's Steve Heatly, in a 21-0 district win. Heatly, a 150-pounder with 4.5 speed, completed just one pass out of 14 for 7 yards and ran for 65.
"This just prepares us for next week, and Nash," said a pleased coach Mark Wiszowaty. "It's going to be a tough one."
That game was played at Northeast High School, after last week's tornadoes rendered the Patriots' field unplayable. Pinellas Park practiced only with limited contact because of the field condition.
Ice, Ice baby: The Iceman cameth, saweth and ran wildeth Friday night, as Dunedin running back Jevon "Iceman" Scott rushed for 257 yards in the Falcons' 32-9 win over Gibbs.
Scott inherited his nickname from his father, he said. "My Dad had it and everyone just handed it on to me," he said. "I don't know how he got it. I never asked him."
Scott's performance gave Dunedin a balanced attack, as quarterback Eric Jones, the county's second-leading passer, added 126 yards through the air on 6-for-12 passing.
Almost, not quite: Talk about furious finishes. There were a total of 32 points scored in the last period of Shorecrest's 24-22 loss to Lake Highland Prep on Friday. The game, tied 7-7 after three periods, was won by a 20-yard field goal by Lake Highland's Jay Hoffman, after a key roughing the kicker penalty kept the scoring drive alive.
"I guess they (penalties) are just part of the game" said Lake Highland coach Ted Rose. "I'm just real proud of my kids."
Shorecrest head coach Phil Hayford had similar praise for his team.
"A lot of people think, you're down 21-7, it's over, but not these guys. They played their heart out. You can't ask for any more."
Somewhat overshadowed by the exciting finish, Lake Highland senior tailback Ferlan Bailey turned in an outstanding performance, rushing for 257 yards on 35 carries.
Shorecrest quarterback Fred Meinke led his team's comeback attempt with runs of 55 and 42 yards, which set up two Charger scores.
Meinke also ran in the 2-point conversion late in the game that put Shorecrest ahead 22-21.
Keeping them guessing: Friday was offensive diversity night in some parts of the county, as two run-minded teams rolled out their quick-strike arsenals. Boca Ciega, without running backs Dwan Brown and Termaine Burton turned to quarterback Kojara Ransom, who threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the Pirates' 26-7 win over Tampa Jesuit. Elsewhere, undefeated Northeast also went to its air game in its 31-7 pounding of host Largo.
"It looked like Largo came to stop the run from what I saw," Northeast coach Jerry Austin said. "So we just tried to take advantage of what they were giving us, and Shawn did a nice job spreading it out."
Before the end of the first quarter, quarterback Shawn Austin (9-18, 157 yards four touchdowns) lofted a long pass to John Dowdell in the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown to give the Vikings a decisive 18-0 lead.
Then Dowdell and Austin teamed up two more times in the third quarter on touchdown passes of 22 and 12 yards as Northeast built a 31-0 lead.
On both touchdowns, Austin hit Dowdell running across the middle and Dowdell broke a couple of tackles and rambled into the end zone.
"That end zone was looking sweet tonight," said Dowdell, who caught four passes for 89 yards. "I was doing everything I could to get in there."
Meanwhile, the Vikings' tenacious defense thwarted Largo tailback David Crawford. Crawford was kept in check until late, finally scoring the Packers' only touchdown late in the game on an 82-yard jaunt.
Road woes: Clearwater Central Catholic had a long ride home Friday after a 37-6 loss to Sarasota Booker. Booker scored the first three times it touched the ball. The first touchdown came after a bad punt snap gave Booker the ball on the CCC 35, and the second came on an interception on the Marauders' second possession.
"They just beat us on a lot of things we need to work on," said CCC coach Jim Daugherty. "We were kind of snakebit."
CCC's lone touchdown came in the second period, when Jeremy Schnechner went over from 1 yard out. The Marauders also lost starting quarterback John Inman, who went down with a knee injury in the third quarter. His condition was still being evaluated Saturday.