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HomeTeam 15: Football rankings for Tampa Bay

A pivotal week of district games could shake up the rankings, as well as provide some clarity in the playoff picture.
Armwood running back Eric Wilson appears to be in postseason form at the midway mark: He notched three touchdowns in last week's game.
Armwood running back Eric Wilson appears to be in postseason form at the midway mark: He notched three touchdowns in last week's game. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Sep. 23, 2019

With many of the top teams idle last week, there were few upsets and movement here. That all could change this week with a slate of quality district games that will help shape playoff races in nearly every classification.

1. Armwood (3-1)

Up next: vs. Wiregrass Ranch

Last spot: No. 1

Why they stayed put: In the first three games of the season, the Hawks had 339 yards rushing, an average of 113 per game. Armwood nearly equaled that total last week, rushing for 253 yards in a 41-21 win over Chamberlain. Eric Wilson did the bulk of the work, running for 132 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He surpassed his total from his first three games. Charles Montgomery had 83 yards and scored twice, including on a kickoff return. On Friday, the Hawks host undefeated Wiregrass Ranch in a key Class 7A, District 8 game.

RELATED: Football: Armwood 41, Chamberlain 21

2. Tampa Bay Tech (4-0)

Up next: vs. East Bay

Last spot: No. 2

Why they stayed put: The Titans’ bye came at a good time, giving them another week to prepare for a stretch run of Class 7A, District 8 games that will determine if they can not only stay undefeated, but also win a title. So far, Tampa Bay Tech has passed every test, beating four teams that either made the playoffs or had a winning record a year ago. The Titans’ success is attributed largely to a balanced offense and a hard-hitting, stingy defense.

3. Lakewood (5-0)

Up next: vs. Madison County

Last spot: No. 3

Why they stayed put: The shutout streak is over, but the Spartans’ perfect start remains intact. Last week, Lakewood gave up its first points of the season in a 38-20 win over Braden River. While the defense has grabbed most of the headlines, Lakewood’s offense has some impressive numbers of its own. The Sprartans have scored at least 35 points in all five games. Quarterback Greg “Deuce” Spann II has thrown for 680 yards, run for 414 and accounted for 15 touchdowns. This week, Lakewood faces its toughest test yet in a matchup with two-time defending state champion Madison County.

RELATED: Football: Lakewood 38, Braden River 20

4. Gaither (4-0)

Coach Kirk Karsen and Gaither are likely looking at 5-0 after this Friday.
Coach Kirk Karsen and Gaither are likely looking at 5-0 after this Friday. [ Times ]

Up next: vs. Fivay

Last spot: No. 4

Why they stayed put: The Cowboys’ passing game still ranks among the best in the area. Quarterback Tony Bartalo, who led the state in passing touchdowns with 17 and was third in yards with 1,107, fell slightly in both categories, only because Gaither had its bye week. The Cowboys, who are averaging 34 points per game, should be able to put up big numbers again this week against Fivay.

5. Berkeley Prep (4-0)

Up next: vs. Tampa Catholic

Last spot: No. 6

Why they moved up: The Buccaneers were dominant in their 42-7 win over IMG Academy White. Zach Perkins, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive lineman who recently committed to Marshall, paved the way for Berkeley Prep to average more than 8 yards per carry. Travis Bates ran for 108 yards and scored three touchdowns on just eight carries. Xavier Townsend had 43 yards and scored twice on seven carries. Though the Buccaneers are no longer in the same classification with Tampa Catholic, Friday’s rivalry game will still have importance in picking up points for the playoffs.

6. Largo (3-2)

Up next: at Countryside

Last spot: No. 5

Why they moved down: Maybe the Packers deserve to tumble more after losing by 38 points to undefeated Palmetto. But it was difficult to place Largo lower than teams that it had already beaten or were coming off a bye week. Regardless, the Packers have to regroup after losing two of their past three. On defense, Largo has given up a combined 94 points during that stretch. A win against Countryside on Friday will all but clinch the Class 6A, District 7 title for the Packers.

RELATED: Football: Palmetto 44, Largo 6

7. Clearwater (3-1)

Up next: vs. Clearwater Central Catholic

Last week: No. 5

Why they moved down: The Tornadoes spent the bye week licking their wounds from a loss to rival Largo. Not only did it drop Clearwater from the unbeaten ranks but it will likely keep them from claiming the Class 6A, District 7 title. Now the focus will be on accumulating enough points to make the playoffs as a wildcard.

8. Jesuit (2-2)

Jesuit's Kiael Kelly, middle, hypes up the Tigers before an early-September game against Clearwater.
Jesuit's Kiael Kelly, middle, hypes up the Tigers before an early-September game against Clearwater. [ ALLIE GOULDING | Times ]

Up next: at Chamberlain

Last week: No. 8

Why they stayed put: It’s been a topsy-turvy season so far for the Tigers, who lose one week, then win the next. But after a bye, the Tigers are hoping an extra week of preparation can get them on a more consistent path. They need it this week with a showdown against Chamberlain that will go a long way toward deciding the Class 5A, District 12 title.

9. Clearwater Central Catholic (3-2)

Up next: at Clearwater

Last week: No. 10

Why they moved up: Since starting 0-2, the Marauders have reeled off three straight wins, the latest coming against Sebring. Jerzhan Newton, who recently committed to Maryland, had a big game on defense, registering 15 tackles and 2.5 sacks. CCC will try to keep its win streak going when it travels to Clearwater on Friday.

10. Chamberlain (2-2)

Up next: vs. Jesuit

Last week: No. 9

Why they moved down: The Chiefs’ two losses have come against the top teams in the rankings, Armwood and Tampa Bay Tech. Last week, Chamberlain trailed the Hawks by a touchdown at the half before losing 41-21. Bruce Jackson threw for three touchdowns, two going to Kaleb Long. On defense, Jaylen Martin picked off two passes. Friday’s game against Jesuit likely is the biggest of the season for the Chiefs.

11. Pinellas Park (2-2)

Up next: at Leto

Last week: No. 11

Why they stayed put: The Patriots still have plenty of momentum after knocking off previously undefeated Largo and Mitchell in their past two games. They also are well-rested after coming off a bye week. Expect Pinellas Park to put up big numbers and keep its win streak going against winless Leto on Friday.

12. Plant City (2-3)

Plant City's Zamir Knighten, here against Tampa Bay Tech, helped get the Raiders back to their winning ways last week.
Plant City's Zamir Knighten, here against Tampa Bay Tech, helped get the Raiders back to their winning ways last week. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Up next: at Bloomingdale

Last week: No. 12

Why they stayed put: The Raiders snapped their three-game losing streak (vs. Tampa Bay Tech, Gaither and defending state champ Lakeland) in a big way, beating East Bay 42-6. Plant City did it by sticking to the running game. Zamir’ Knighten had 118 yards and scored once on 10 carries. Quarterback Makenzie Kennedy had 77 yards and two touchdowns. In all, the Raiders rushed for 281 yards. On Friday, Plant City travels to Bloomingdale in a Class 7A, District 7 that will likely determine a playoff spot.

13. Bloomingdale (3-1)

Up next: vs. Plant City

Last week: No. 13

Why they stayed put: At 3-1, the Bulls have the same record under first-year coach Jake Coulson that they did a year ago. Part of that is due to a stifling defense that has allowed a combined 23 points in wins over Newsome, Durant and Plant. With Lakeland in Class 7A, District 7, Friday’s game against Plant City likely won’t count toward a title, but it will have postseason implications.

RELATED: Football: Bloomingdale 22, Plant 10

14. Springstead (4-0)

Up next: vs. Pasco

Last week: No. 14

Why they stayed put: After last week’s 21-0 win over Crystal River, the Eagles have now posted shutouts in three of their first four games. Springstead could notch another one this week against Pasco, which was blanked in two of their past three games. A win Friday also would put the Eagles in good position to take the Class 6A, District 5 title.

15. Steinbrenner (5-0)

Up next: Bye

Last week: No. 15

Why they stayed put: Defense played a big role in last week’s 29-15 win over Hillsborough that kept the Warriors undefeated. Matt Durrance picked off three passes, and Austin Brannen forced two fumbles and had two fumble recoveries. Steinbrenner has a bye, giving the team another week to prepare for a battle against Plant on Oct. 4 that will most likely decide the Class 8A, District 7 title.

RELATED: Football: Steinbrenner 29, Hillsborough 15

On the bubble

Wiregrass Ranch (5-0), Calvary Christian (3-1), Boca Ciega (3-2), Mitchell (4-1), Riverview (5-0), Newsome (4-1), Tampa Catholic (4-1), Lennard (3-1), Cambridge Christian (5-0).