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Elite eight: Boys soccer rankings

Jesuit Tampa's Royce Pope (11) advances the ball defended by Ponte Vedra's Landon Taucher (4) during high school Class 3A Semifinal State Championship boys soccer action at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. (Gary Lloyd McCullough, Special to the Times)
Jesuit Tampa's Royce Pope (11) advances the ball defended by Ponte Vedra's Landon Taucher (4) during high school Class 3A Semifinal State Championship boys soccer action at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. (Gary Lloyd McCullough, Special to the Times)
Published Dec. 8, 2016

1. Palm Harbor University (9-0-0)

This week: Thursday at Alonso

The skinny: The Hurricanes, a defending region finalist, are ranked fifth in the nation and second overall in the state by MaxPreps. The perfect start is impressive considering PHU graduated several starters from last season. Most of the wins have come against teams in Class 5A, District 7, one of the toughest in the state. Last week was the Hurricanes' best of the season with wins against Wiregrass Ranch, Steinbrenner and Seminole.

2. St. Petersburg Catholic (6-0-0)

This week: Thursday vs. Calvary Christian

The skinny: The Barons are ranked 16th in the nation and eighth overall by MaxPreps. St. Petersburg Catholic has been dominant against private school competition, outscoring opponents this season by a combined 30-2. Brett Makowski has six goals and Luke Travis, Kaan Gezen and Chris Coughlin each have five to lead the Barons in scoring.

3. Jesuit (8-1-0)

This week: Thursday vs. Tampa Catholic; Saturday at Cape Coral; Monday vs. Mitchell

The skinny: The Tigers' lone loss was to Steinbrenner in the second game of the season. Since then, Jesuit has won seven straight, including the last four by a combined 21-0. The biggest win came against Wiregrass Ranch last week. Royce Pope and Benny Ortiz each have seven goals.

4. Wiregrass Ranch (6-2-2)

This week: Thursday at Wharton

The skinny: Chris Faddoul went down with a knee injury in last week's loss to Palm Harbor University. The Bulls overcame that setback, beating Steinbrenner 1-0 to snap a two-game losing streak. Ryan Al-khatib had the winning goal against the Warriors.

5. Sunlake (9-0-0)

This week: Friday vs. Anclote

The skinny: Once again, the Seahawks are steam-rolling the competition in Pasco County. Sunlake has outscored opponents 44-5 this season. The strong start is a big reason Sunlake is ranked 13th in the state by MaxPreps. But the Seahawks have not played as tough of a schedule as the rest in the elite eight. Tariq and Trevon Michael have combined for 25 goals this season.

6. Steinbrenner (5-3-0)

This week: Thursday vs. Plant; Friday vs. Plant City

The skinny: After starting 3-0, the Warriors have lost three of their past five, including two straight to Palm Harbor University and Wiregrass Ranch. The offense has only scored one goal in the three losses. Steve Soronellas has a team-leading five goals.

7. Plant City (5-0-0)

This week: Thursday at Steinbrenner

The skinny: The Raiders, who have not been to the playoffs since 2012, are off to one of their best starts in years. Two of their four wins in Class 5A, District 6 have been decided by a goal. Last week, Plant City rallied with two second half goals to beat rival Durant 2-1. Eric Ugarte has eight goals, five more than anyone else on the team.

8. Countryside (5-2-0)

This week: Friday vs. Dixie Hollins

The skinny: After a 3-2 start, the Cougars are starting to come together. They beat St. Petersburg and Seminole to climb back into contention in Class 4A, District 10. The defense has been stellar with just four goals allowed this season.

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On the bubble: Hillsborough (4-1-1), Mitchell (5-1-2), Northeast (7-1-0), Strawberry Crest (4-2-0), Newsome (7-2-0), Berkeley Prep (4-3-1), Seminole (5-2-1)

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