This game may have major playoff implications come November. There’s no doubt about that. Last season, because of St. Petersburg’s win in this game, East Lake had to go to a tiebreaker to see who would be the second team to represent Class 7A-District 10 in the playoffs. That team was East Lake, getting into the playoffs with a 6-4 regular season record. The Green Devils were a playoff snub at 6-4. This game may prove to be big, and here’s what you should know going into Friday night.
As we mentioned, St. Petersburg got the win in this game last year, 46-30. This was an East Lake team that was at that point still in the shock of losing to Palm Harbor University two weeks prior, and they dropped to 1-2 on the year at that point. This time, both teams enter at 2-0, STP won in a fight with Lakewood 14-12 and a blowout of Osceola last week. The Eagles also enter in at 2-0, both in close games against PHU and Lake Brantley. Now it’s home, they’ve got the “Blue Crew” behind them, and we may be seeing somebody different come out as the victor on Friday night.
For STP, Austyn Causey has came back to play after his stop at Admiral Farragut. In the Green Devils two games, he’s gone 19 of 30 for 247 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception against Lakewood. Matt Landers has caught six of those passes and has 141 yards and two touchdowns coming into the game – something that East Lake CB Tupac Blanch is going to have be aware of. Will we see another Josh Norman not covering Antonio Brown? I highly doubt it, but hey, nothing’s impossible.
On the other side, Tyler Rupe has shown that he’s going to be a quality starter with the 194 yard passing performance against PHU two weeks ago. He’s found WR Bryce Miller for five touchdowns already in 2016, and it’s going to take a lot to stop that combo. STP’s Anthony Johnson (four interceptions) will have to watch Miller like a hawk in order to get the stops when they need them.
The St. Petersburg rushing game has been pretty much up to par with expectations, they’ve got two guys that are able to run their Wing-T offense, giving STP a pretty balanced offense (in terms of yardage) over the past two games. Deshawn Brown has 151 yards on 16 carries, and Donnie Crum (another transfer from Admiral Farragut) has 128 yards on 15 carries. Both have rushing touchdowns.
So what’s going to be the X-Factor? I think for STP, they’re going to have to get Austin Johnson (4 TFL) and Larry McCall (4 sacks) in the backfield early and often, and they need to do it to get Rupe uncomfortable. Making Rupe get uncomfortable will be important with his inexperience. For East Lake, I think the play of Rupe will be a big determinant for who’s going to get the win. It’s his first district game as the starter, and it’s on a pretty big stage. Also, Blanch needs to be able to shut down Landers, and the whole East Lake secondary needs to make STP a one-dimensional team.
These two 7A-10 foes will take the field on Friday night at 7:30 in Tarpon Springs, and we’ll have all the coverage on our Twitter page.