They’re ALL important–especially when it comes to district play, but we’ve got some of the most important games in each of the counties this week below. Forty-three district match-ups will kickoff between tonight and tomorrow through the coverage area, but these six below are the ones we have our eyes wide open in anticipation.
Hernando County: Nature Coast (3-0) at Central (2-1)
While there may be some games on the North Suncoast that provide more fireworks than this one, the supreme importance of this game to the Bears gives the game so much intrigue. Nature Coast is without question the number one team in Hernando at the moment. The Sharks have won six-straight in this series after Central had won five-straight. They’ve got a rushing attack that’s as close to complete as it can be through the first three weeks. Central looks to be much better than their final mark of 2-8 this season, but it appears to be anything-goes when you stack them against the rest of the teams in the district right now and owning tiebreakers is essential. They’ve got a fantastic rushing attack as well, but they’ve got to be able to throw the same haymakers that NCT will. The game is on their home turf–and in this district every game will have a do-or-die feel to it.
Hillsborough County: East Bay (2-1) at Durant (3-0)
Talk about a do-or-die feel to it–this district opener promises one thing and that’s some pad-poppin’. Last year, the Cougars defeated East Bay 28-7, but this season the Indians are looking like a team that is much closer in differential than three touchdowns. We mentioned tiebreakers–there’s no guarantee this district WON’T end up in a 3-way tie by the end of the season now that we’ve received a bit of a sample-size from all of its members. Owning the tiebreaker for both of these teams will be crucial since we feel they’re both in the hunt for the postseason.
Manatee County: Lakewood Ranch (1-2) at Braden River (3-0)
Owning a tiebreaker against the Pirates (if you’re Lakewood Ranch) is a must in a district with Palmetto and Venice looming down the road. Braden River “snuck” up on the Mustangs last season 21-6 in what’s rapidly becoming one of Manatee County’s premier rivalry “events” with its atmosphere. The schools are basically on opposite sides of I-75 and it takes less than 10 minutes to get from one campus to the next–even with a little traffic. The series is tied a 4-4 over the last eight seasons so throw the rosters and records out.
Pasco County: Land O’Lakes (2-1) at Sunlake (3-0)
HUGE game for the Gators in this neighborly tilt as well. The Seahwaks have owned this rivalry of late winning five-straight and will not want to have their record soiled–on their own soil–against a Land O’Lakes team that believes this is the year they can defeat their “little brother” in the Butter Bowl. The shockwaves that would be sent from a Seahawk defeat would go beyond Pasco County. The Gators found a little bit of offense last week and need to keep that momentum going. Sunlake was involved in a tiebreaker scenario last season in this district so they’re in no mood to make this a habit–especially with Mitchell and Pasco on the horizon.
Pinellas County: East Lake (1-2) at St. Petersburg (2-1)
There are a few potentially great district games in Pinellas this Friday, but we’ve got one with supreme importance and that involves the Eagles traveling to the Green Devils. East Lake gave up a ton of yardage last week to Lake Brantley and their triple option, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t learned their lessons. They’ll have to apply them well as St. Pete is jacked-up for this opportunity to take the district by the reigns. Obviously in a district with the likes of Countryside and Pinellas Park owning a tiebreaker against is paramount.
Polk County: Lake Gibson (0-3) at Lake Wales (2-1)
So much on the line tonight as the Braves have got to stop the bleeding on their season. Adversity must be faced squarely when they head down to the Highlanders on BHSN that will be televised throughout the I-4 corridor. Originally thought as the de-facto district championship–this game is now looking like a must-win for Lake Gibson and it’s only week four.