A postseason berth is clinched. The playoffs are a week away. Really, the game means nothing.
But if you listen to Crystal River coach Jere DeFoor, the Pirates should have no problem getting focused for Friday night's game against Ocala West Port.
"The kids are excited about playing a good opponent," DeFoor said. "They've heard stories about how good they are. They've got a good team, and the kids know what kind of athletes they have."
West Port is not a playoff squad but easily could be. The Wolf Pack is 6-3 with losses to 5-4 Eustis (35-32), 7-2 Dunnellon (27-23) and 6-3 North Marion (36-32). Dunnellon beat Crystal River (6-3) by three touchdowns in Week 2. West Port should give the Pirates a nice pre-postseason test.
"They're the type of team you don't see a lot," DeFoor said. "They spread the field and throw a lot. They've got good skill kids everywhere."
YOUTH MOVEMENT: In Citrus' surprisingly close 38-36 loss to unbeaten Wesley Chapel last week, little-known players Willie Miller and Patrick Kruis produced nice results.
Miller, a junior, rushed for 152 yards on 13 carries. Kruis, a freshman, scored on a 54-yard run and made eight tackles at linebacker. Neither had seen significant playing time.
"We played a lot of underclassmen, just to see what they could do and test them in a game situation," Hurricanes coach Larry Bishop said. "They were key contributors."
That Citrus (3-6) played so well was bitter sweet. Not only because the Hurricanes fell short, but because they finally reached the level of play coaches all along said they could achieve.
"The effort and the intensity were there," Bishop said. "They fought until the very end. We've been preaching to the kids that this is a good football team, but they always seemed to make mistakes in critical situations. Against good teams, that hurts you. This past week, we played pretty good against a sound team."
ODDS & ENDS: Hudson's 50-8 win over Lecanto four weeks ago shocked many, but the Cobras have won two of three since, losing only to Springstead. Last week, they beat Zephyrhills, which recently defeated playoff-bound Crystal River. Citrus quarterback Casey Snyder passed for 124 yards and one touchdown, intercepted a pass and returned a fumble for a touchdown against Wesley Chapel. "We can't say enough about the way he played," Bishop said. DeFoor said Crystal River has a few minor nagging injuries, but no player will miss Friday's game. West Port coach Alex Castaneda was offensive coordinator at Ocala Vanguard when Daunte Culpepper, now with the Minnesota Vikings, was the starting quarterback.
_ KEITH NIEBUHR