Week Nine has come upon us around the state, a week that is going to be very decisive on what the playoffs are going to look like. We’re back with another potluck, getting you ready for what you need to know about playoff teams, competitive districts, a couple of first year coaches that have had a really successful go-around in their first season, and finally, our game of the week, an important one in determining a district in Manatee County. But sit back, enjoy, bring your favorite drink, as we take you through what you need to know for this upcoming Friday night.
Four Districts with Intense Playoff Scenarios:
Class 6A-District 7:
Teams in Contention: Hillsborough (7-0, 3-0), Armwood (6-1, 3-0), Brandon (3-4, 2-1), Chamberlain (2-4, 1-2).
The district is pretty much decided within the next week or so when Hillsborough plays Brandon on Friday. Hillsborough and Armwood could both punch their tickets to the playoffs with wins over their opponents (Armwood plays King). Chamberlain can be eliminated with a loss to Blake, which would give the Yellow Jackets their first district win. If everything goes as it probably should (which it hasn’t this year, so who knows) Hillsborough will play at Armwood in Week Ten, which will determine who is the district champion and who is runner-up in 6A-7.
Class 8A-District 6:
Teams in Contention: Sarasota Riverview (5-1, 3-1), Manatee (4-3, 3-1), Newsome (4-4, 3-1), Palm Harbor University (3-3, 3-2).
8A-6 wasn’t supposed to be this competitive, but here we are at the end of October talking about a possible three-way tie coming after next week, especially after Sarasota Riverview’s upset win over Manatee last week. Here’s the bottom line. Newsome wins the district if they defeat Sarasota Riverview and Manatee in the next two weeks. If they lose both games, they’re out, Sarasota Riverview would win the district, and Manatee would be the runner-up. Now, here’s where it gets complicated. If Sarasota Riverview loses to Newsome, and defeats Alonso next week, they will be in line for a three-way tie. If Manatee wins this week against Riverview and loses to Newsome next week, they will be in that tie. If Palm Harbor University wins against Riverview next week, they will also be in that tie. Even though the matchups aren’t very grand tonight, it will play into determining what will happen next week.
Class 5A-District 8:
Teams in Contention: Wesley Chapel (7-0, 5-0), River Ridge (5-1, 5-0), Zephyrhills (5-2, 4-1).
Because of Wesley Chapel’s win over Anclote last week, this is certainly not as complex as we previously thought it would be. However, this week and next week will be very instrumental in determining what happens. Zephyrhills has to beat Wesley Chapel at home in order to stay in contention, because of their loss against River Ridge last week. Wesley Chapel can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Bulldogs and a River Ridge win. River Ridge can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Anclote and a Wesley Chapel win. If Z-Hills is eliminated tonight, it will set up a game for the district championship between Wesley Chapel and River Ridge next week.
Class 7A-District 8:
Teams in Contention: Plant (7-0, 4-0), Wiregrass Ranch (5-2, 3-1), Sickles (4-3, 3-2), Gaither (2-5, 2-2).
Sickles is really on the outside-looking in on the top two teams of this district because of their loss to Wharton last week. The Wildcats have been eliminated, but they still were going to be competitive, throwing a wrench in the Gryphons plans for another playoff appearance. Wiregrass Ranch is still in a position for a playoff spot, even with their loss to Sickles in Week Four. This race can shrink to three teams if Gaither loses to Wiregrass Ranch tonight at home. Plant, on the other hand, can clinch yet another district title if they defeat Freedom and Gaither pulls out a victory against the Bulls. With Sickles on a bye this week, they will have to also hope Gaither pulls out a win for them to be in contention going into next week.
Three Teams That Need a Bounce-Back Win:
Newsome (4-4, 3-1):
The Wolves have dropped two straight after winning their previous three. Their loss to Steinbrenner on the road hurt them in terms of getting a playoff spot, and a 34-13 loss against Jefferson certainly didn’t help the morale. Newsome enters its most difficult two-game stretch of the season, with a trip to Sarasota Riverview to play the Rams, and then they host Manatee next Friday, both games, that could determine who makes the playoffs (mentioned above). The Wolves will need a big performance from their skill players in order to get the victory in hostile territory and to have a shot to make the playoffs.
Mitchell (4-2, 1-1):
Word on the street is that QB Larry Dalla Betta will be a “game-time decision,” which means even if he does play, he may not be at full mobility or be able to play to his potential, which could create lots of problems for the Mustangs on the road at Sunlake. The Seahawks have been rolling since their Week Two loss to Zephyrhills, and they can lock up another District Championship with a win. Mitchell is hanging on to their last chance to make the playoffs, they need a win, and a Pasco win over Land O’Lakes to have any sort of a chance to stay alive. “The ‘Stang Gang” is going to have to show up in full force, as well as the Mustangs defense in order to grab a victory.
Zephyrhills (5-2, 4-1):
In the last two weeks for the Bulldogs, they’ve had a 57 point difference in terms of scoring. They hung 71 on Ridgewood two weeks ago, but then only scored 14 against River Ridge in an important 5A-8 matchup. Now they get to face an undefeated Wesley Chapel at Bulldog Stadium, in a matchup of high-powered offenses. Florida State commit Isaiah Bolden will have his hands full with Z-Hills’ Tre’Pavis Mobley on the outside, but it may come down to who can run the ball more effectively. Will it be Zephyrhills, sparked by QB Charles Harrison and RB Elijah Thomas? Or will it be Wesley Chapel, who feature RBs Malik Melvin and Dexter Leverett?
Two Coaches That Are Having Strong First Years:
Chris Harvey, Clearwater Central Catholic (6-1, 2-0):
Harvey, who is the son-in-law of long-time Head Coach John Davis, has stepped right into the foreground of a possible state championship contending program and made a very nice impact so far this year. The Marauders only loss came against Tampa Catholic in a thrilling 25-20 game, but other than that, Harvey has been coaching his team to some nice victories against competitive teams like Clearwater Academy International, Berkeley Prep, and Calvary Christian. CCC may have their toughest test of the season against Admiral Farragut on the road tonight.
Patrick Murphy, Sickles (4-3, 3-2):
When you replace a guy with the last name Turner in the Bay Area, you’ve gotta be a good coach. Whether it be Billy or Brian, there are some big shoes to fill. Murphy has done a good job of doing that, creating a competitive Sickles team, and also filling some holes that may have been weaknesses otherwise. Jordan McCloud has turned into a pretty effective quarterback, and Anthony Quintana has turned into an interesting player at running back. Don’t forget about that highly-touted Gryphon secondary of Jontrey Hunter and Tim’arcus Simpson, who have been turning heads since the camp season. We’ll see if the playoffs are in the cards for Sickles this year after this week’s games (mentioned above).
One Game You Will Not Want to Miss:
Braden River (5-1, 2-1) at Palmetto (6-1, 3-0):
Both teams are in contention for a playoff spot in Class 7A-District 11. Venice is in the drivers seat with a perfect overall record and a perfect district record with last week’s 42-35 win against Braden River. Palmetto’s only blemish comes against 8A Manatee, which doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s a different team. Just ask Head Coach Dave Marino that. This will be Palmetto’s biggest test of the season, and it will be the biggest test for junior QB Jason Spicer in his young playing career. He’ll have to be accurate, fast, and unflappable if he wants to give the Tigers a chance to win. For the Pirates, this is where RB Raymond Thomas likes to shine, and he’s going to have to do it if the Pirates want to have another shot for another Regional Championship.
This game will be televised on Bright House Sports Network, so make sure you don’t miss this important Manatee County matchup. We’ll also have Twitter coverage on this game, so keep checking back with us for updates.