If you don’t catch any football this evening, you’ll be waiting for a “hot” minute waiting for the summer to pass and August 1st to come. In addition to the CCC-Clearwater and Countryside-Manatee games that were previewed, we’ve got six more games within the coverage area for your entertainment this evening and a quick story-line from each.
Lakewood Ranch at Booker
The Mustangs and the Tornadoes are a pair of three-win teams from 2015 looking to erase those seasons with much better seasons. Lakewood Ranch defeated Booker 27-0 in a weather-shortened contest up in Lakewood Ranch last year, and will be making the trek down to Sarasota to face a team that finished in last place in 5A-11. Lakewood Ranch finished in fifth spot in 7A-11 and features a few very nice prospects in Jay Turner and Justin Curtis on the offensive side of the ball. The Mustangs won their last two contests in 2015 against North Port and DeSoto County respectively, so they’ve got a little but of momentum heading into tonight’s event for certain.
Palmetto at St. Petersburg
Both teams finished at 6-4 last season and out of the playoffs. This game last year was won by Palmetto 38-34 on a drive orchestrated by Jack Allison. The QB is now in Coral Gables and the Tigers’ other playmaker–Ocatvious James–is gone, too. Palmetto’s record might have been a little deceiving due to the fact they had a one-point loss to rivals Manatee and their other three losses came to Braden River, Venice and Charlotte. Those teams went a combined 43-5 postseason records included. St. Petersburg rushed for 2,920 yards last season and threw for just 500. That helps when you’ve got the running backs they had, but Jacquel Waller and Darius Miller have departed. One silver-lining is that Austyn Causey has transferred from Admiral Farragut–Causey threw for 1,834 yards last season and 20 touchdowns.
Osceola at East Lake
The Eagles won this game 62-28 in the spring last season, and normally it’s Head Coach Bob Hudson’s chance to let his squad see a wing-t offense. Well, the Eagles will need a better translation from spring to fall than they did last season, when they faced Lake Brantley and St. Petersburg in back-to-back weeks giving up 40+ points. East Lake may have questions, but they’ve got talent to answer for it at virtually every position and expect them to start out of the gates much better come the fall. Osceola must learn a new coaches face following the departure of George Palmer after 20+ years on the job. They also must replace their leading rusher Travis Wateska, who signed with D-3 dynasty Mount Union to play ball. Both teams were in the postseason in their respective classes as well.
Tenoroc at Auburndale
The Titans are coming off their best record in school history (6-4) and were mere seconds away from making the postseason in Class 4A as the runner-ups in 4A-6. They ended up losing their bowl game to East Ridge, but will have bigger issues when it comes to finding someone to replace Keon Walters and Jedarian Gaskins. They do have QB J’torriance Spates returning, but will face an uphill battle if they can’t start fast. Auburndale is fresh off a frustrating 2015 campaign in which they dropped three contests by a touchdown or less. They don’t have offensive playmakers Artavis Pierce or Jessie Britt, but they’ve got KJ Jenkins who can play both sides of the ball and a couple of behemoth’s on the offensive line in Drew Beymer (6-9/315) and Tyrie Francois (6-8/316) and have Chanuncy Smart–who is literally one of the fastest human beings in our state at the moment.
Forest Hill (West Palm Beach) at Winter Haven
The Falcons make their way up from the Palm Beaches following a 6-4 season in Class 7A and finishing third behind Dwyer and Royal Palm Beach in District 7A-13. Winter Haven experienced the same frustration that Auburndale might have felt after getting snubbed inches from the goal-line against Lakeland on a failed two-point conversion. That game would’ve put the Blue Devils into the postseason and prevented them from being labeled as “underachieving” on the season. They’ve got Polk County’s top passer back in William Tate and they’ve got a linebacking corps that’s as good as it gets. They’ve also got speed outside at the receiver position and we could see some big numbers from those guys down the road.
Lake Gibson, Apopka at Kissimmee-Osceola (Jamboree)
The Braves on paper might have bit off a bit more than they can chew at this very instant, but give them some time and they’ll be in the equation like they were last season following their district championship and 7-3 record. Although quite a few seniors have departed at some key positions, they’ve got one of Polk’s top running backs who is just a rising junior in Travell Jones and although inexperienced at the offensive line, they could end up with that unit being one of their most-relaible come seasons’ end. For now, they’ll face perennial powers Apopka and Osceola–who have been in the state finals the last two seasons in two different classes.