We may be done with the regular season, but we’re certainly not done with our potluck. There’s quite a bit of games yet to be played around the Bay Area, in a second round that has some district rematches, rematches from last season, and there’s some games that look to be instant classics. So grab a plate, grab your silverware, and we’ll take you on a culinary journey throughout the Tampa Bay playoff picture.
Four Players That Need to Have Big Games:
Gordon Stetson, 2017 RB, Berkeley Prep:
Stetson may arguably be one of the most, if not the most, underrated backs in the BCP coverage area. He doesn’t get nearly as much attention as some of the other private school backs, but he is a talent for the Buccaneers. Stetson had his third 200-plus yard rushing game, with 213 against The First Academy in round one. He added three touchdowns, good for 21 of Berkeley Prep’s points. The Bucs will hit the road again in a district rematch against Tampa Catholic, where they previously lost 25-10. Stetson? He only ran for 45 yards on 14 carries. Stetson will need to have the game of his life the Bucs’ want to defeat Tampa Catholic on the road.
Dane Frantzen, 2017 QB, Plant:
What other tricks does Frantzen have up his sleeve? It seems like in every game, he’s making a huge play, and he may end up being a X-factor against Lakeland in their rematch from last season, when the ‘Naughts defeated Plant 21-11. Frantzen is a candidate for player of the year, and we’ll tell you why: Frantzen has thrown for 1,776 yards and 26 touchdowns, and he’s ran (running back is his original natural position) for 1,120 yards and 16 touchdowns, plus he’s led the Panthers to a 10-0 record. Frantzen turned it on against Winter Haven when he threw 11-for-13 and 157 yards and added 91 yards on the ground. He had five total touchdowns.
Trent Wyatt, 2017 ATH, Tampa Bay Tech:
The former starting quarterback has done a little bit of everything for the Titans this season: passing, rushing, receiving – but he made his impact felt against St. Petersburg on Friday night. He only ran the ball seven times, compiling 20 yards, but he scored four times. He scored the game winner in double overtime against the Green Devils to stay alive in the playoffs. Wyatt will need to have more rushing yards and/or the same amount of touchdowns in order to help his Titans score a victory against a hostile home environment in East Lake in the second round.
TJ Owens, 2017 RB, Nature Coast Tech:
Every time this stud back touches the ball, magic follows. Owens averages 15.3 yards per game, which is right on par with Deshawn Smith, who led the nation in rushing yards in 2016. However, Owens doesn’t have the production, especially touchdown wise as Smith, but he’s still a threat each time he touches the ball. Against Zephyrhills, he was practically untouchable, running for 398 yards on 22 carries (18.1 YPC) and four big touchdowns in the Sharks 35-21 win. Their opponent, River Ridge, only gave up 130 total rushing yards to Crystal River in round one, so Owens will certainly have to find ways to break through the stout defense.
Three Competitive District Rematches:
Braden River (9-1, 4-1) at Venice (10-0, 5-0):
This matchup between Manatee County and Sarasota County was VERY competitive when these two teams played back on Oct. 14. Venice was victorious 42-35, but the loss for Braden River was nothing to be disappointed in. Therefore, the Pirates weren’t able to defend their district championship, but they still have a chance to win a regional championship. Venice is a difficult place to play – the Indians haven’t lost a home game since Nov. 2014, so it will be imperative for Braden River to get the crowd out of the game early and to play the game that they want to play.
Jefferson (7-3, 3-1) at Jesuit (10-0, 4-0):
Another undefeated team on their home turf is Jesuit, as they haven’t lot a home game since their exit against Bishop Moore in last year’s State Semis. In week four, the Tigers defeated Jefferson 44-23. Last year in the playoffs, Jesuit won by a larger margin – 38-7, so the Dragons are looking for some sort of revenge on their district foes. The Tigers are coming off of their blowout victory against Lakewood last week, while Jefferson just barely got by Lakewood, thanks to a last second field goal that gave them a 34-33 victory.
Berkeley Prep (8-2, 1-1) at Tampa Catholic (6-3, 2-0):
Berkeley Prep surprised a ton of people when they upset The First Academy last Friday, but it certainly shows that they have a chance to win big against a tough team. Now they face the Crusaders, who average 25.3 points allowed per game, while the Buccaneers average 17.4 points allowed per game. This could end up being another defensive battle like when they Tampa Catholic defeated Berkeley in the regular season 25-10, but Gordon Stetson has looked to hit his stride as of late, just like Devan Barrett on the other side of the ball. Barrett had 245 rushing yards last time these two teams met.
Two Teams That Broke a Bad Playoff Streak
Clearwater (10-1, 5-0):
The Tornadoes 27-16 win over Port Charlotte was their first playoff win since 2003, and it was the first under Don Mesick. It was a big game for QB Austin Day, who was 19-of-23 for 155 yards with two touchdowns on the evening. Garet Chishold had two big sacks for the Tornadoes in the win. From here, they will travel to Punta Gorda to take on Charlotte High in the second round, who defeated Boca Ciega 35-6 to stay undefeated in 2016.
Mitchell (8-2, 2-1):
This version of the Mustangs made history in 2016, grabbing their first playoff victory in school history against Ocala Forest, 17-14, in a thriller on Friday night. Mitchell QB Justin Locklear had his least productive game as starting quarterback through the air, throwing two interceptions against Forest. However, he did have a very nice game on the ground with 123 yards on the ground, which supplemented Mychael Hamilton’s 133 rushing yards. Next up for the Mustangs is Ocala Vanguard, who defeated Springstead 45-0 in the first round.
One Game You Can’t Miss:
Lakeland (8-2, 2-1) at Plant (10-0, 6-0):
Dad’s Stadium will be rocking for this matchup that is a rematch of last year’s second round matchup, where Lakeland got the win. Mentioned before, Dane Frantzen is the guy to watch for Plant, as his ability to pass and rush is going to be something that the Lakeland defense hasn’t seen this year. The ‘Naughts loss against Kathleen is still fresh in their find, while Plant hasn’t had a real test since they beat Armwood by two in September. Lakeland’s core of QB Holden Hotchkiss, RB AJ Davis, and WR James Robinson will have to be very good to get past the tough Panther defense, who have given up only 9.8 points per game this season.