We're halfway home to the playoffs. Here's this week's Grab Bag, compiled by me, John C. Cotey, aftter digging my nose into stats provided by coaches to MaxPreps and HomeTeam. So if you want to get in here, your stats will need to be in one of these places. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam if you have any worthy tidbits.
1. Tampa Catholic at Clearwater Central Catholic: The Crusaders spent all season listening to people tell them they were dead. They are not. They are very much alive. But CCC is aliver. Yes, I make up words. But the Marauders have too many athletes in too many different positions. CCC 28-14.
2. Sickles at Armwood: The Gryphons haven't been able to win their biggest regular-season game against the district favorite recently, losing to Armwood last year and Largo the two previous seasons. Is this the year? I almost like their chances, but Hawks win 35-16.
3. Northeast at Countryside: I'll buy the whole "Northeast Is Real" meme, but only if the Vikings beat the Cougars. Until then…I'll roll with Countryside 35-28.
4. Plant at Wharton: The Wildcats haven't rushed for 100 yards since Aug. 31, averaging just 2.5 yards a carry. I don't care how good Chase Litton is, he won't be able to do it by himself against a very good Plant defense. Panthers 28-12.
5. Plant City at Durant: I was at last year's 43-12 Plant City win, and if I can remember it like it was yesterday, the Cougars should remember it like it was last second. Durant 35-10.
6. Pinellas Park at St. Petersburg: I don't want to say this is a must-win game for St. Petersburg, but I have no choice. This is a must-win game for St. Petersburg. Pinellas Park 14-13.
7. Nature Coast at Sunlake: Head, Nature Coast. Tails, Sunlake….aaaaaaannnnnnd, it's Nature Coast 20-17.
8. Jefferson at Hillsborough: If Jefferson is going to make it back to the postseason, it has to start winning games like this. Like, right now. For Hillsborough, it's the Terriers' toughest game of the season. Hillsborough 33-27.
9. Gibbs at Lakewood: I put this game in here because it's a nice neighborhood rivalry (and by nice, I mean fierce), but its hard to imagine the Gladiators being competitive, and Lakewood is on a mission. Spartans 42-7.
10. Mitchell at Land O'Lakes: The Gators are off to the first 1-3 start since 2004. They made the playoffs that season, though, if you're looking for a bright side. Mitchell 28-16.
11. Hernando at River Ridge: We find out this week if Hernando is now ready to begin their playoff push. And if the Knights are finished. Hernando 35-21.
Upset of the Week
12. Osceola at Boca Ciega: The Warriors don't have nearly the athletes the Pirates do, but they do what they do well. Well enough, I think, to shock Bogie 17-14.
Last week: 10-1 last, 0-1 on upset for the second straight week.
HomeTeam Pick'em Update
Last week, we had three pickers -- Tom Ketchum, Real Raider Fan and David C -- go 18-2 in our weekly prognastication challenge. I went 17-3, which is, like, totally awesome. Don't hate. But if you'd like to join up, go here.
Grab Bag Offensive Player of the Week
Northeast's Keith Harrington was unstoppable Friday night. While the Viking is a future 1,000-yard rusher, he has been more dangerous catching balls out of the backfield. In the dramatic comeback win over Tarpon Springs, he caught six of them -- for 170 yards and four touchdowns.
Grab Bag Defensive Player of the Week
Puh-lease: Javaughn Johnson of Robinson returned three turnovers for touchdowns, and while the Grab Bag prides itself on its different takes, we are left with no choice but the obvious.
But can I just mention that Wharton linebacker Rocky Enos was a beast last week? He tackled, according to my notes, eight different Durant players, six members of The Blue Crew (just to stay warm when the offense was on the field), four color guard members during their halftime show (to get loose for the third quarter), three concession stand workers (he was upset they ran out of his favorite color of Gatorade), two tuba players (part of band hazing ritual) and HomeTeam staffer Joel Anderson, who merely was trying to get a quote but went down in a crumpled heap while crying like a little boy whose mommy just took his Nintendo DS away from him.
Grab Bag Team of the Week
Tampa Catholic crushed a Lake Highland Prep team 52-14, the same team that defending district champ Berkeley Prep barely beat, which may mean nothing. I think it sent a small bolt of electricty through 3A-5 and is making everyone reconsider the Crusaders.
Stat of the Week
Sickles quarterback Nate Mills may not be flashy, but he has been awfully proficient. In his past seven games going back to last season, he has thrown 14 touchdown passes and just one interception in 86 attempts. And he has at least one touchdown pass in every one of those games (and three in a bowl game loss last year, which we aren't including). The 6-0, 205-pound senior has completed 28 of 45 passes this season for 386 yards and seven touchdowns, and threw his only interception in the first game.
Grab Bag First-Half Offensive Player of the Year
Largo's Juwan Brown would be a unanimous vote, if we held it today, because I would take anyone on the HomeTeam staff who refused to vote for him out to my car and lock him in my trunk. Fact.
Brown has been the best player on the best team, and that settles this argument. And this helps: He is 46-for-72 passing for 765 yards with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions; he has rushed for 340 yards and three touchdowns; and on defense he has two interceptions.
Do I really even need to clear room in my trunk?
Runnerup: Ryan Davis, Northeast.
Grab Bag First-Half Defensive Player of the Year
The entire Robinson defense, which has scored 11 touchdowns and more points than 28 teams in Tampa Bay.
Runners-up: Rocky Enos, Wharton and Harry Brown, Largo.
Five Surprise Teams of the First Half
1. Tampa Catholic: Who knew?
2. Northeast: Scary thought: this team might be a year away from something magical.
3. Durant: Win last week when they didn't have their best stuff has me predicting a 10-0 regular season. Yep. I. Said. That.
4. Largo: Yeah, I knew they were good, but after all the belly-aching about being small in the trenches, I hardly expected routs of Countryside and East Lake.
5. Pasco: Lost a ton of talent, but beating teams worse than it did last year without top player Janarion Grant is truly impressive.
Honorable mention: Strawberry Crest, who I wasn't sure would win a game; Springstead, who wasn't one of the top choices to win 6A-6 but leads it; Plant City, stung by graduation but far from crippled.
Five Best Games Left on the Schedule
1. Lakewood at Jesuit, Oct. 19: Yeah, there's a chance the Spartans' game with Robinson will be bigger, but everyone is looking at this showdown as the real indicator of whether or not Lakewood is for real. The Spartans look the part so far, but every one of the teams they have beaten is 1-4, and all are averaging fewer than nine points a game. Jesuit will be a nice midterm exam.
2. Robinson at Lakewood, Oct. 26: If the Spartans win the game above, and the Knights keep winning, this one has Game of the Year written all over it, even if it is on the same night as Plant-Armwood.
3. Armwood at Plant, Oct. 26: Dads Stadium will be hopping. The Panthers have gladly accepted the Hawk forfeit wins from the past two years, but on the field they didn't score. One of the best rivalries in the state.
4. Jesuit at Tampa Catholic: I think we all remember where we were the last time Tampa Catholic won this game. I was in line to see Star Wars the day it opened.
5. Sickles-Hillsborough, Oct. 12: This one will probably decide the runnerup 6A-8, or the champ if the Gryphons pull off the big upset this week against the Hawks.
Honorable mention: Any game in the 6A-6, really, will be a big one, that district being as crazy, unpredictable and parity-ridden as it is.
Top 10 "Breakout Players Who Were Relatively Unknown" of the First Half
1. Trey Larry, CCC: The talented senior is averaging more than 20 yards a rush, reception, punt return and kick return, and he is a true lockdown corner. But his big plays have been backbreaking to opponents, like the two scores against PHU and his punt return against Cardinal Mooney.
2. Karel Hamilton, Strawberry Crest: I saw him against Leto last year and was like, dang! But that was Leto. This year? He has at least one TD in every game, 466 yards receiving and, quite soon, we imagine, some scholarship offers.
3. Tre Watson, Tampa Catholic: When will colleges jump on this 6-2, 215-pound linebacker? All he's done since transferring from Tampa Bay Tech is average 10 tackles a game, lead Tampa Bay with eight sacks and post 15 quarterback hurries.
4. Brad Hyman-Muhammad, Admiral Farragut: An underrated and unappreciated defensive back with great cover skills, Hyman-Muhammad is making a big mark as a wide receiver this season. He has four 100-yard games, six touchdowns in his past two games and is averaging 25 yards a catch in leading Tampa Bay with 550 receiving yards.
5. Keith Harrington, Northeast: He's a 1,000-yard guy ...I just can't figure out if its by receiving or rushing?
6. Ray Ray McCLoud, Sickles: He's only a sophomore, but folks have been talking about McCloud for years. After a gentle introduction last year (28 carries), McCloud has emerged as Sickles' most dangerous weapon with 544 yards and almost 10 yards a carry.
7. Malik Johns, Pasco: He won't get the attention he deserves because he's on a team with three gigantic names (Joey Ivie, Janarion Grant and David Emmanuel), but he has returned a punt for a touchdown in every game this season.
8. Michael Ford, Tarpon Springs: If Jerome Bettis had a mini me, he might look like Ford, only a sophomore but leading Pinellas County in rushing with 683 yards.
9. Tristan Hyde, Strawberry Crest: Only one Tampa Bay player has two 300-yard passing games. <<<<< This guy.
10. Reggie Campbell, Largo: Some guys make you hold your breath every time the ball heads in their direction. Campbell, only a sophomore, is one of those guys.
Biggest Theme of the First Half? Injuries
I don't recall a year where there has been so many injuries to so many top players.
Dixie Hollins, which was supposed to be a playoff contender because of the rushing attack of Demondre Lambert and Kabriel Jackson, lost both guys to torn ACLs in Week 1.
St. Petersburg Catholic's FSU commit, Ryan Green, was lost for the season with a shoulder injury; Plant's top tackle, Richy Klepal, was forced to essentially retire because of concussions; and Pasco's Janarion Grant still hasn't played due to a hand injury. All three of those guys were in the top 11 of the HomeTeam100.
Another HomeTeam100 guy, Gibbs' Maurice Hall, was lost for the season after being recently shot.