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High school football rankings for Tampa Bay, Week 10

Defense leads the way, especially for the area’s top two teams, Armwood and Lakewood
Armwood senior Patrick Oden rips off a long run after catching a short pass during first-half action against Wiregrass Ranch earlier this season. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
Armwood senior Patrick Oden rips off a long run after catching a short pass during first-half action against Wiregrass Ranch earlier this season. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Oct. 22

Rain and tornado warnings wrecked the Week 9 slate last week, forcing teams to either play in a quagmire or reschedule games. But it was not just the elements that nullified passing games. Suffocating defensive play was a factor, too. It’s no coincidence that the top two teams, Armwood and Lakewood, boast the best defenses in the area.

1. Armwood (7-1)

Up next: vs. East Bay

Last week: No. 1

Why they stayed put: The Hawks recorded their third straight shutout with a 49-0 win over Jefferson. The defense made life miserable for former Armwood quarterback Tre Simmons, who transferred in the offseason and was ranked among the state leaders in yards and touchdown passes. Clyde Pinder Jr. and Malcolm Hope Jr. each had two sacks, Jalil Core Core returned an interception for a touchdown, and EJ Perry scooped up a fumble for a score. The Hawks have already clinched the Class 7A, District 8 title, but they still need to keep winning to maintain a high RPI ranking for the No. 1 seed in the region.

RELATED: Armwood establishes dominance from first snap

2. Lakewood (8-0)

Up next: at Largo

Last week: No. 2

Why they stayed put: Thanks to their undefeated record and devastating defense, the Spartans are starting to get some recognition statewide — and nationally. Lakewood is ranked 12th overall in the state and 112th nationally by MaxPreps. Wins against Largo this week and Fort Myers Dunbar in the regular-season finale could push the Spartans into the top 100, as well as clinch the top seed in their Class 4A region.

3. Gaither (8-0)

Up next: at Freedom

Last week: No. 3

Why they stayed put: The Cowboys have already clinched the Class 6A, District 6 title. Now, the goal is to become the first team in school history to go undefeated in the regular season. Last week, Gaither kept its win streak going with an impressive 26-8 win over Tampa Bay Tech. The Cowboys showed off their balance with Tony Bartalo throwing for 141 yards and two touchdowns and Chance Coleman running for 117 and a score.

RELATED: Wet, dry ... unbeaten Gaither won’t ground its passing game

4. Largo (6-2)

Largo's Jayion McCluster (3) scrambles up the field on a running play against Boca Ciega earlier this season. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]

Up next: at Lakewood

Last week: No. 5

Why they moved up: The Packers routed Osceola 35-0 for their third straight win. They also finished unbeaten in Class 6A, District 7 play and clinched their third straight title. Friday’s matchup against Lakewood is a solid one featuring two of the area’s top teams. The key will be whether Largo’s offensive line can hold off the Spartans’ ferocious pass rush.

5. Jesuit (6-2)

Up next: vs. Bradenton Bayshore

Last week: No. 6

Why they moved up: The Tigers continued their dominance, beating Gibbs 55-6 last week. The defense recorded 11 sacks, three by JoJo Ludovici, and forced three turnovers. Junior Vandeross returned an interception and a punt for touchdowns. Jesuit, winners of five straight, will try to keep their streak on Friday against Bradenton Bayshore in a game that will decide the Class 5A, District 12 title.

6. Berkeley Prep (6-1)

Up next: Bye

Last week: No. 9

Why they moved up: The Buccaneers were supposed to play Titusville Astronaut last week but the game was postponed until Oct. 28 because of the storms expected from Tropical Storm Nestor. Berkeley Prep should not be hampered too much by the change. After all, the Buccaneers are on their bye week. Still, it will be a lot of scrambling with two games in a five-day span to close out the regular season.

7. Bloomingdale (6-2)

Up next: vs. Strawberry Crest

Last week: No. 4

Why they moved down: The Bulls were shut out in their two losses this season. Of course, they came against Armwood and Lakeland, two of the state’s top three teams in Class 7A. Because of that, it was hard to drop Bloomingdale too far after its loss to the defending state champion Dreadnaughts. That squashed the Bulls’ hopes of the Class 7A, District 7 title. But Bloomingdale can still make the playoffs with an at-large bid provided they keep winning.

RELATED: State powerhouse Lakeland shuts out new district foe Bloomingdale

8. Clearwater (6-2)

Keedrik Murray is closing in on multiple school records for Clearwater. [Times]

Up next: vs. Osceola

Last week: No. 9

Why they moved up: The Tornadoes cruised to a 37-7 win over Seminole on Monday. The outcome was all but decided by halftime with most of the starters sitting in the second half. Keedrik Murray needs three more receptions and one more touchdown catch to set school career records in both categories. Clearwater cannot win the Class 6A, District 7 title but it still is in solid standing to make the playoffs with an at-large bid.

9. Clearwater Central Catholic (6-3)

Up next: Bye

Last week: No. 11

Why they moved up: By beating Class 4A, No. 1-ranked Fort Lauderdale University last week, the Marauders boosted their RPI ranking enough to secure a playoff spot in Class 3A. Playing in a heavy downpour, Clearwater Central Catholic relied on its run game and defense to prevail. Jordan Niles rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns. But the player of the game was Jerzhan Newton. The Maryland commit rushed for 59 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, Newton recorded seven tackles and two sacks and had a forced fumble.

RELATED: Weather delay is actually good timing for Clearwater Central Catholic

10. Steinbrenner (8-0)

Up next: at Wharton

Last week: No. 10

Why they stayed put: This has been a record-breaking season for the Warriors. Quarterback Haden Carlson set the school’s career mark for touchdown passes and running back Deon Silas now is the program’s all-time leader in all-purpose and return yards in last week’s victory over Palm Harbor University. Steinbrenner has won 12 straight games, a streak that dates to last season and is currently the longest in the area. Another win this week against Wharton and the Warriors will clinch their first-ever district title.

RELATED: Haden Carlson, Deon Silas set program records for Steinbrenner

11. Springstead (8-0)

Up next: Lake Minneola

Last week: No. 12

Why they moved up: With a win over Groveland South Lake last week, the Eagles join Lakewood, Gaither and Steinbrenner as the area’s lone unbeaten teams. Springstead took advantage of the elements, sticking to a run game that grinded out more than 300 yards. Anthony Alexis led the way with 161 yards and two touchdowns. Adrian Cabrera recorded 13 tackles and blocked a punt. The Eagles can win the Class 6A, District 5 title by beating Lake Minneola on Friday.

12. Tampa Bay Tech (5-3)

Tampa Bay Tech's Bobby Moore (No. 4) celebrates after intercepting a pass against Armwood earlier this season. [LUIS SANTANA | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times]

Up next: at Wiregrass Ranch

Last week: No. 8

Why they moved down: The Titans are reeling. After starting 5-0, they have lost three straight, all by double digits. Granted, the schedule has been rough with the three losses coming against Armwood, Bloomingdale and Gaither. It doesn’t get much easier this week. Tampa Bay Tech faces Wiregrass Ranch in game it most likely needs to win to make the playoffs with an at-large bid.

13. Pinellas Park (5-3)

Up next: at East Lake

Last week: No. 14

Why they moved up: After starting 0-2, the Patriots have won five of their last six, the latest coming against Sickles. FSU recruit Lawrance Toafil ran for 249 yards and four touchdowns to keep Pinellas Park on top of the Class 7A, District 9 standings. A win against East Lake on Friday will wrap up the district title.

RELATED: Perfect conditions for Pinellas Park’s rush attack

14. Newsome (7-2)

Up next: at Davenport Ridge Community

Last week: No. 13

Why they moved down: The Wolves had their seven-game win streak snapped with a loss to Sarasota Riverview that cost them a chance at the Class 8A, District 8 title. Newsome has to hope its record — and RPI ranking — is strong enough to qualify for the playoffs. Friday’s game against Ridge Community is the Wolves’ regular-season finale.

Sarasota Riverview ready for Newsome’s ground attack this year

15. Mitchell (7-1)

Up next: vs. Sickles

Last week: No. 15

Why they stayed put: The offense keeps producing a dizzying amount of points — and yards. During the Mustangs’ four-game win streak, they have averaged more than 55 points per game. Balance is the key. Ezra Brennan threw for three touchdowns and Tyler Williams ran for three more in a 54-2 win over Sunlake. Mitchell needs to beat Sickles on Friday and hope for East Lake to knock off Pinellas Park to force a three-way tie at the top of the Class 7A, District 9 standings.

RELATED: Mitchell soundly defeats another district foe

On the bubble

Chamberlain (4-4), Plant City (4-5), Wiregrass Ranch (7-1), Dixie Hollins (6-2), Calvary Christian (6-2), Boca Ciega (6-2), Riverview (7-2), Tampa Catholic (4-4), Lennard (6-2), Nature Coast (5-4), Seffner Christian (5-3), Cambridge Christian (8-1)


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    The East has now won five straight in the senior showcase.
  2. Pasco County's seniors took to the field one last time on Friday night. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    River Ridge’s Anthony Roussos accounts for the final scores in a tight matchup.
  3. Bloomingdale's Gabriel Akpewero runs for a touchdown against Tampa Bay Tech on Oct. 4. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
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  4. River Ridge's Travis Hawks is one of six Royal Knights playing in the all-star game. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    The fifth annual game will be held at Sunlake High.
  5. Jesuit 106-pounder Kai Owen acknowledges Tiger fans moments after winning the Class 2A state title with a 2-1 decision last season. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    After seasons of coming close at the state meet, Tiger grapplers are pushing for more this season.
  6. Keswick Christian's Yasmin Baroni tries to rip the ball from the hands of Northeast's Jada Ballard on Thursday. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    A second-quarter run is all the Crusaders need to stay out in front of their rival.
  7. Tampa Bay Tech sophomores Amiya Evans, second from right, and Janiah Barker, right, could help lead the Titans to one of the highest national rankings of any Tampa Bay area team in history in the 2019-20 season [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
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  8. Senior football players in Pinellas County took to the gridiron for their final prep game Wednesday night. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Of the past 15 meetings, the South has been on the losing end 13 times.
  9. In this file photo, Lakewood High School defensive lineman Tre'von Riggins (98) takes a moment during a spring football practice last April. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
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  10. A little more than a month into the season, Nature Coast Tech sophomore Kennedy Weissman leads the state in scoring with 41 goals and 92 points, almost double the totals of the next closest player. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The sophomore has a whopping 41 goals so far this season, easily tops of any player in Florida.