Regular season football is upon the Tampa Bay area. All those months of camps, of training, of team bonding, will all come to a head on Friday night. We’ve got a combination of rivalry games, long bus rides, and many teams who are ready to start to prove who they are. Here are five interesting games that you need to watch for on Friday night.
Winter Haven at Auburndale:
This game has had quite the Twitter buildup over the past few weeks – players from both sides are giving their reasons to why they feel they’re going to win. What you need to know is that Will Tate is back and ready to go for the Blue Devils. He led Polk County in passing in 2015, and he’s going to try and repeat those results again. Auburndale returns one of the fastest guys in the state in Chauncy Smart, and Isaac Etienne will make Winter Haven have to be sharp. The Blue Devils shut out the ‘Hounds 22-0 last season – something fresh in the minds of Auburndale fans and players.
Jefferson at Tampa Bay Tech:
Both teams have new-ish quarterbacks leading them. For the Dragons, Cade Weldon isn’t exactly new, but it seems like he is after he missed all of 2015 with a knee injury, suffered against the Titans last season. Tampa Bay Tech features Pasco transfer Michael Penix Jr., who was 15 of 28 with 203 passing yards in the Fall Classic against Blake, according to Don Jensen of the Tampa Bay Times. Another interesting storyline in this game is the Dragons will be without Ahmarean Brown, who transferred to Tampa Catholic over the offseason. J’Bril Glaze will be the main guy along the defensive line, while Jonathan King and Paul Taylor will look to put a lot of pressure on Weldon. Last season, the Titans defeated Jefferson 18-0.
Durant at Hillsborough:
This matchup features two “on the rise” teams in two different classes in Hillsborough County. The Cougars will start their quest for a playoff spot after a season that saw them drop their last four games after starting 6-0. For the Terriers, it’s about finding that consistency that they didn’t find in 2015. Hillsborough defeated East Bay 41-0 in their Fall Classic last week, while Durant slid by Brandon 24-6. Watch for all the Division One commits on the field, including Zach Carter (Florida), Duran Bell (USF), Steven Witchoskey (Western Kentucky), and Xavier Lyas (NC State). Last season, the Cougars were victorious, 16-7.
River Ridge at Mitchell:
Another game that has caused a ton of Twitter hype – the Mustangs and Royal Knights will go at it for another chance to see just who is one of the best teams in Pasco County. The Mustangs’ “Stang Gang” will be in full force at home, but without a doubt, the “Purple Posse” will be in New Port Richey to support their squad. Mitchell will be trying to rebound from a 51-11 rout against Palm Harbor University last week, as QB Larry Dalla Betta will have to have a big night in order to get past the River Ridge secondary. In 2015, the Mustangs dropped a 10-7 defensive battle to the Royal Knights.
Palm Harbor University at East Lake:
Yet another rivalry game taking place this week, and yet another game with a ton of Tweets going back and forth. PHU is coming off of their 51-11 win over Mitchell, something that East Lake will have to take into account. The Eagles are coming off of a 33-8 victory against Sunlake, where QB Tyler Rupe solidified his role as the starter with a 159 passing yard game, according to Bob Putnam of the Times. East Lake Head Coach Bob Hudson will try to use this game to prove that the Eagles are better than their 7-5 2015 record suggests, while the Hurricanes will try to send a message to the rest of Class 8A-District 6 that they have a strong team. At this time last year, the ‘Canes stunned the Eagles with a 14-10 victory.