Big 7A-9 district battle tonight at Countryside High School. The home Cougars will host the #3 ranked, East Lake Eagles attempting to advance one step closer to grasping a playoff spot. East Lake is a perfect 6-0 (2-0), averaging 31 points each game in the first half alone. Countryside leans heavy on the outstanding play of their defense. “Cside” has allowed just 3 total points since their week three loss to Palmetto (27-0).
This is a must win game for both teams. Pinellas Park is also 2-0 in the district, waiting to play both East Lake and Countryside. Three good teams, only two playoff spots vacant. Let’s take a look at some history and keys to this matchup.
• The Countryside Cougars started playing football in 1979. That year, they went 4-5 under head coach Howard Millisor. East Lake is a bit younger, started playing football in 1987. That initial season, the Eagles posted a 1-8 record with Rob Jenkins as the head coach.
• The Eagles and the Cougars have played every year since 1989 with East Lake winning the first matchup 14-3. East Lake also leads the all time series 13-11 dominating the 90s, winning 7 games in that 10-year span. Countryside countered in the 2000s, winning 8 games (excluding their forfeit loss last season). Countryside has won the last 5 meetings on the field, forfeit loss last season due to ineligible player.
• This season, the key for both teams is stopping the run. Both teams are very similar on the ground. A three-headed monster that has been getting the job done. The Cougars are averaging 165.7 rushing yards per game. Leading rusher Dante Satcher has 365 total rushing yards (61ypg). Mike Johnson and Mekhi Reynolds have another 358 rushing yards combined.
• The Eagles of East Lake are stronger on the ground. The Birds are averaging 226 yards per game, with leading rusher Weston Fordham averaging 91 yards per game (540 total rush yards). Drew Couto and Artavis Scott have another 583 rushing yards between them.
• Countryside has to limit the effectiveness of East Lake 2014 ATH, Artavis Scott. The Clemson commit has 763 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns he has scored 3 different ways (Receiving, rushing, special teams). Countryside should kick away from him when punting and kicking off. Do not give him an opportunity to change the field position or score on special teams. Know where he is aligned at all times when on offense. East Lake will get him the ball several different ways and the Cougars do not want to get surprised.
• Countryside QB Robby Hicks has been sound when throwing the football. He is completing over 50% of his passes and spreading the ball around. 4 different receivers have double digits receptions. Zach Laurinatis appears to be his deep threat (23 yards per catch) while Slyvester Kimbrough is his money guy (19 catches, 272 yards receiving).
• Defensively, Countryside DE Steven Czop leads the team in sacks (6). The defense has posted 18 sacks this season. East Lake ATH, George Campbell leads the team in receiving yards and sacks (5). As a team, the Eagles have 12 total sacks.
This should be a game where a few big plays will be the difference in the ball game. It could be a key first down reception by Dillon Zettweuch or a late TD pass by Robby Hicks. It could be a Justin Strand drive stopping interception or an Avery Cole sideline catch. Anything can happen in this game. One thing is for sure…it matters! It counts for a playoff spot and counts to the community. Pinellas County Big Time football.