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Sunday morning quarterback: Rivalry games live up to hype

Tampa Catholic’s Devan Barrett breaks away from CCC’s Amari Burney near the end zone.
Tampa Catholic’s Devan Barrett breaks away from CCC’s Amari Burney near the end zone.
Published Sep. 24, 2016

Player of the week: De'Vonta Smith, Central

Before the season Smith said he wanted to do better than his record-setting cousin, Nature Coast alum DeShawn Smith. He took one record away from his cousin Friday night in a 63-28 win over Weeki Wachee. Smith gained 488 yards on 23 carries and scored eight touchdowns. He broke DeShawn's Hernando County single-game rushing record of 444 yards, set last season. His eight touchdowns tied a county record.

"We knew about the touchdown record but we didn't know about the rushing record," Central coach Chris Sands said. "When he got eight (touchdowns) we pulled him out. It was the right thing to do. It seemed like every time he touched the ball he was gone. He's such a luxury to have."

Smith now has 1,130 rushing yards through four games, an average of 282.5 yards per game. At this pace, with five regular-season games remaining, he would end with 2,543 yards. DeShawn had 3,715 yards in 13 games, including three playoff games.

Team of the week: Tampa Catholic

This was supposed to be a state-title contending team. But in the first two games, Tampa Catholic looked like anything but one. The Crusaders lost by a combined 90-15 to national power Bergen Catholic of New Jersey and state-ranked Fort Pierce Central to open the season.

To make matters worse, Tampa Catholic quarterback Austin Sessums had dehydration issues and did not play in the second half of the first two games. This was what the Crusaders were facing heading into their rivalry game against Clearwater Central Catholic, ranked No. 1 in the Class 3A state poll.

Sessums stuck to a strict diet and played the entire game, leading the team on a fourth-quarter drive that provided the winning score. And the defense that had given up so many points to high-caliber programs came through when it mattered and held on a goal-line stand to preserve a 25-21 win.

Coach of the week: Robert Weiner, Plant

Sure, Armwood was a little banged up, but Plant hasn't beaten its rival in a regular-season game since 2012. As expected, the game was close and came down to a Hail Mary pass that was intercepted by Plant to preserve a 29-27 win. Plant remains undefeated at 4-0 and gets to keep bragging rights as the best team in Hillsborough County. It obviously meant a lot to Weiner: "I don't know what happened across the country," he said, "but you can't beat this."

By the numbers

1,236 Combined yards of offense in the 62-60 Ridgewood win over Anclote. Anclote had 736 yards and Ridgewood 500.

507 Yards Jesuit's Malik Davis needs to become Hillsborough County's all-time rushing leader, a record held by Sickles alum Ray Ray McCloud (5,765).

20 Touchdowns Tampa Bay Tech's Michael Penix Jr. has scored in the first four games this season (14 passing, six rushing).

17 Straight regular-season wins by Nature Coast, currently the longest streak in the bay area thanks to Armwood's loss to Plant.

16 Points allowed by Hillsborough in four games this season. The Terriers have not allowed a touchdown in two games.

4 Wins this season by undefeated Wesley Chapel, equaling the school's total from the previous two years combined.

2 Interceptions returned for touchdowns this season by Pinellas Park's Zamari Maxwell, whose latest score turned out to be the winner against Boca Ciega.

District dandies

We're at the midpoint of the season and the district matchups coming up could go a long way in deciding playoff berths.

Plant City (3-1, 2-0) at Tampa Bay Tech (4-0, 2-0): Both teams made the playoffs in Class 7A, District 9 last season and met again in the region semifinals. Plant City prevailed both times but Tampa Bay Tech enters this one undefeated and averaging 45 points per game.

Springstead (2-1, 1-0) at Sunlake (4-1, 1-0): The Eagles already have knocked off defending district champion Mitchell and a win against Sunlake would all but wrap up the Class 6A, District 6 title.

Seffner Christian (4-0, 0-0) at Cambridge Christian (5-0, 0-0): This might be the Lancers' toughest game in Class 2A, District 5. A win clinches a playoff berth for either team in this three-team league.

Clearwater (3-0, 1-0) at Northeast (4-0, 1-0): The Vikings have doubled their win total from last season and are looking to keep their perfect record intact against the defending Class 6A, District 9 champion Tornadoes.