CITRUS COUNTY GAMES
Central (3-4) at Crystal River (6-2)
Time and site: 7:30 p.m.; Pirates Stadium at Crystal River High on NE Eighth Avenue off County Road 44.
Last year: Crystal River 14, Central 0.
Key points: This is a non-district, Gulf Coast Conference game. Central is coming off a 28-27 overtime loss to Zephyrhills, Crystal River a 10-3 victory over Gulf. The Pirates would prefer to be 7-2 going into next week's battle against Citrus to decide the runner-up spot in the 4A-District 6 race. Central hopes to even out its record with Hudson and South Sumter still on the schedule. Crystal River quarterback Ryan Reynolds is still questionable after a severe ankle sprain sustained two weeks ago against Fort Myers Lehigh. Senior Brian Rowe played last week and was 4-of-12 for 59 yards. Central's multi-pronged running attack features the quickness of tailback Marc Munford (591 yards, four TDs), driving power of fullback Tellis Roundtree (594 yards, six TDs), and the speed of Elliot Coon (432 yards, two TDs). Crystal River senior Eric Lockley is seventh on the list of North Suncoast rushers with 656 yards and seven TDs.
Prediction: Crystal River 21, Central 14.
Clearwater Catholic (0-7) at Lecanto (1-6)
Time and site: 7:30 p.m.; Panthers Stadium at Lecanto High on Educational Path off County Road 491 in Lecanto.
Last year: Lecanto 33, Clearwater Central Catholic 26.
Key points: This non-district, non-conference games pits two struggling teams looking for a late-season boost. Lecanto is coming off an open date, CCC a 37-3 loss to River Ridge Both teams like to pass. Panthers senior quarterback Todd Bandhauer leads the North Suncoast with 1,039 yards and three TDs, and has seven interceptions. Junior Tyler Hunsinger is the favorite receiver (27 catches for 426 yards and three TDs), but tight ends Bill Bostain and Nick Edwards have stepped up in the mid-season to combine for 19 catches for 271 yards. Nick Kaniaris has another 17 catches for 222 yards. CCC's pass attack is piloted by Chris Defant (71-of-155 for 945 yards). Lecanto got one of its three victories last year against CCC. This year, the Panthers' per-game average of 10 points is twice CCC's five-point average, which combined with Lecanto's off week and a long bus ride for the Marauders give the home team the edge.
Prediction: Lecanto 14, CCC 7.
Citrus (5-3) at Hernando (6-1)
Time and site: 7:30 p.m.; Tom Fisher Stadium at Hernando High in Brooksville.
Radio: WWJB-AM (1450), Brooksville.
Last year: Citrus 30, Hernando 27.
Key points: This non-district, Gulf Coast Conference game features two of the North Suncoast's top rushers. Citrus' Dwight Neil is second on the list with 768 yards and nine TDs, Hernando's Eric Riggins is third with 767 yards and 13 TDs despite missing one game because of a disciplinary suspension. Both are juniors. Citrus is coming a 20-0 loss to South Sumter; Hernando a 55-20 victory over Lecanto. Citrus has lost three straight since winning its first five, scoring only six points in the three losses. The Hurricanes are battered after three successive games with physical teams _ Ocala Vanguard, Central and South Sumter. Junior quarterbacks Brian Turner and Troy Waller share the signal-calling duties. Combined, they have thrown for more than 600 yards and six TDs. Junior Kenny McKettrick had a quarterback sack and batted down a pass at the line against South Sumter. Hernando must avoid looking ahead to its Nov. 4 showdown with Pasco High, a game that will decide the 4A-District 7 title. Though both teams are guaranteed playoff berths, the winner plays at home in the first round. The Leopards will be without sophomore lineman Bret Bauer, who is out for the season with a knee injury sustained against Hudson.
Prediction: Hernando 28, Citrus 14.
ELSEWHERE IN THE GCC
South Sumter (5-1) at South Lake (1-7): South Sumter clinched the 4A-District 6 title with its 20-0 victory over Citrus last week, but even an emotional letdown won't help South Lake, which has lost seven straight since winning its season opener. South Lake quarterback Keith Baker and his passing attack will be hard-pressed to find holes in the South Sumter defense.
ELSEWHERE ON THE NORTH SUNCOAST
Zephyrhills (6-2) at Pasco (7-1): These two West Pasco County schools will play for pride and earning potential at the ticket booth in their second meeting of the season. The first _ a 40-21 victory by Pasco _ counted in the 4A-District 7 standings. Still, Pasco has much at stake in terms of momentum and injuries. Coach Perry Brown would like to have eight straight victories heading into next week's showdown with Hernando for the district championship. Troy Hambrick, Pasco's two-way standout who has rushed for 1,071 yards and 14 touchdowns and has five interceptions, will not see much action at safety. Running mate Page Sessoms (651 yards, 13.3 average) will probably play more defense than offense. Zephyrhills, though out of the district race with losses to Pasco and Hernando, is enjoying a strong season behind a balanced attack. Quarterback Donnie Pinkerton has passed for 992 yards and nine touchdowns, and Mike Barber is second in the county in rushing with 709 yards. With nothing to lose, Zephyrhills will be itching to pull to an upset.
River Ridge (4-3) at Hudson (1-6): This is a non-district, Sunshine Athletic Conference game. Both teams were involved in blowouts last week _ River Ridge a 37-3 victory over Clearwater Central Catholic, Hudson a 55-20 loss to Hernando. The Royal Knights rushers _ who had five TDs and 279 yards last week _ should be licking their chops after Hudson gave up six rushing TDs and 290 yards last week. But River Ridge will have to avoid looking past Hudson to next week's 4A-District 8 showdown with Osceola, the Royal Knights' final hope for a playoff berth.
Ridgewood (2-5) at Land O'Lakes (2-5): This is a non-district, Sunshine Athletic Conference game. Both teams lost district games last week that removed them from playoff contention _ the Gators 48-7 to Pasco and the Rams 28-6 to East Lake. Neither is particularly potent on offense. Teddy Pennington leads Land O'Lakes with 300 yards rushing while Jason Franjesevic is Ridgewood's top rusher with 165 yards. But neither defense is adept at stopping the run, allowing more than 10 yards per carry last week.
Idle: Springstead (3-5) and Gulf (3-5).