We’re getting you ready for Week Five of the Bay Area football scene, right here, right now. We’ve got all of your favorite dishes: games to watch out for, questions to be answered, players to pay attention to, and the one stat that you’re going to want to share with all of your friends, coworkers, and frankly, anybody else you want to tell. There’s a boatload of information we’re just waiting to share, so let’s get going.
Four games to watch out for:
Clearwater Central Catholic (4-0) at Tampa Catholic (0-2):
Last year, CCC defeated the Crusaders 49-28. Will this be a similar story when it’s all said and done? There’s a possibility, but there’s also a possibility that this game could get very lopsided again. Reports from the Tampa Bay Times are that Austin Sessums will be back – the senior QB didn’t play a good part of the game against Fort Pierce Central due to hydration issues. His leadership is going to be necessary if he wants to navigate through the Marauder secondary in Amari Burney, CJ Cotman, Jervon Newton and company. CCC’s offense will have to play like they did in the second half against Clearwater Academy International if they want to grab their fifth win of the season. Another note: this will be CCC’s first road game of the season.
Gaither (2-2, 1-0) at Sickles (2-1, 1-0):
This is a Gaither team that really needs to win a game here, especially against a rival like Sickles. The Gryphons have been rolling, especially after their overtime 30-29 victory against Wiregrass Ranch last Friday. This may have playoff implications riding on it, so it’s a must-win for both sides. Both teams are 1-0 in Class 7A-District 8 play (Gaither defeated Wharton last week), and it’s going to be a real test to see where both teams are at. Gaither QB Gavin DenBoer will have to get the ball away from the trio of Anthony Quintana, Jontrey Hunter, and Tim’arcus Simpson, and if he’s able to do that, the Cowboy defense will also have to step up. This could be another overtime game for both teams, one that looks to be exciting the whole way through.
Middleton (4-0, 1-0) at Blake (2-1, 0-1):
One year ago, you’d probably be asking, “why is this game on the list?” But, here’s why this game is important. First, look for the battle of the bands. Both are known for their show-band style, and both received superior (highest possible rating) ratings at the 2015 Marching Band Music Performance Assessment. Furthermore, there’s a deep-rooted rivalry between Blake and Middleton that dates back to the 50s, before both schools were shut down and reopened in 1997 and 2002, respectively. Here’s the final (but the biggest) thing that makes this matchup good: both teams have a chance to make the playoffs. When was the last time we could say that? Middleton enters at 4-0, Blake enters at 2-1, and both have chances to win six games. Make sure you pay attention to this game, because it’s going to be a good one.
Largo (2-1, 1-0) at St. Petersburg (2-1, 0-1):
St. Petersburg is coming off of a game that they would like to have back. They’re at 2-1, but now they’re possibly on the outside of the playoff picture in 7A-10. Meanwhile, Largo won their first district game to Dixie Hollins, but they couldn’t get past a Tarpon Springs defense that shut them out. Largo QB Isaiah Bellamy is coming off of a record-setting game with 310 passing yards, but will he do it again? STP’s defense will have to step up to stop the hot quarterback. On the other side, Austyn Causey will have the pass rush of Bobby Roundtree and Jaquaze Sorrells against him (seven sacks combined) and he’ll have to find his receivers quick. If that pass rush gets going, watch for Causey to possibly make a mistake that could give Largo the edge they need to get a victory on the road.
Three questions that need to be answered:
Can Cambridge Christian continue their scoring run?
The Lancers hung 85 on Indian Rocks Christian two weeks ago, and they hung 65 on Avant Garde Academy last week. Cambridge will play Melbourne Holy Trinity Episcopal, who is allowing 33 points a game in their first three. The Lancers have scored 31 total offensive touchdowns, 25 of them on the ground, and nine of them from AJ Cunningham. If they keep scoring like this, they may turn into a midseason favorite to win the Class 2A State Title.
How is Winter Haven going to respond?
Yes, they lost to Kissimmee Osceola, but they did put 47 points on them, which is hard to do, especially on the road. Here’s the thing: they’ve got Lake Region this week, who currently sits at 2-2. Even though it’s on the road, Winter Haven is going to continue their hot streak. Will Tate to Terrance Anglin has been a dangerous weapon, and Anglin has done a lot of work through the air (303 receiving yards) and on the ground (231 yards). Watch for another big offensive game from the Blue Devils against the Thunder.
Is the decline of East Bay on the way?
East Bay lost their first game of the year against Durant last week, in a 38-3 rout on their home field. The Indians schedule over the next three weeks is as followed: Plant City, Robinson, and Lennard. If the Indians can get out of those next three games at a 5-2 record, they may have a chance to be competing for a playoff spot. If not, they may be knocked out of contention. Head Coach Frank LaRosa won’t let that happen if he can help it. Watch for the Indians to certainly get a test against Plant City this week, but also look for East Bay to try and respond in 7A-9.
A couple guys to watch:
Colin Wray, 2018 QB, Steinbrenner vs. Noah Fluker, 2018 CB, Riverview:
Steinbrenner opened up their Class 8A-District 6 play with a one-point loss against Sarasota Riverview, but they’re back at Warrior Field to defend their home turf against the Sharks. Wray is filling in at quarterback for the injured Cason Byrd, who hurt his ACL for the second straight year against Gaither in Week One. Wray is coming off of a game where he was 12 of 20 with 103 yards and a touchdown. Fluker has been the big threat for the revamped Sharks secondary, which as a unit, have five interceptions already on the season. Fluker has three, which puts him tied for fifth in the state in interceptions. Wray will have to stay away from Fluker if he wants to have success, and give the Warriors their first win in 8A-6.
TJ Owens, 2017 RB, Nature Coast Tech:
Owens has been a big part of Nature Coast’s offense, helping the Sharks achieve a 3-0 record coming into this week against Crystal River. He’s already got six rushing touchdowns on the season, and he’s been a nice option to replace Deshawn Smith. He won’t have the touchdown production that Smith had last season, but he’s going to be a nice option for the Sharks to rely on down the stretch in district play. Tonight, they play Crystal River, who enters after a 21-9 win against Citrus last week to put them at 1-2.
258 – That’s the number of passing yards per game that Tampa Bay Tech’s Michael Penix Jr. has collected over the Titans past three games. He’s thrown for nine touchdowns as well, and he’s spread the wealth to five different Titan receivers. Tampa Bay Tech may be the favorite to win 7A-9, but Penix is already having an incredible year, and it’s going to be a year to remember, whether the district championship ends up in his hands at the end of the season. He’s been a very nice addition to Tampa Bay Tech after his transfer from Pasco in the offseason. The Titans will be at home against Strawberry Crest this evening.
Don’t forget about our Armwood at Plant coverage this evening, we’ll have all of the updates on our Twitter page.