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The Friday night football forecast

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This high school football season is unlike any other. After all, face masks are not just attached to helmets anymore. The few fans allowed to attend games have to wear face coverings all the time or when they cannot practice social distancing. Live streaming as now become a big part of the viewing experience, especially for those who were unable to get a ticket or had concerns attending because of the coronavirus. The season kicks off Friday night with a handful of private school games. Here is the lowdown on what to expect.

Jesuit at Bishop Verot, 7 p.m.

Seating capacity: About 500

Masks: Required for all fans. 

Tickets: None online. All reserved seating for family members only.

Live stream:  Bishop Verot will broadcast the game on VerotLive through Facebook. https://facebook.com/VerotLive/

Outlook: Jesuit enters the season without three Division I-A recruits — quarterback Kiael Kelly (Ball State), running back Ricky Parks (Utah) and defensive back Jordan Young (Florida) — all of whom transferred to Gaither. Despite those losses, the Tigers have more than talent to make another deep run in the playoffs. Joe Pesansky will get the start at quarterback for the Tigers, though others who were in the mix could see playing time. The running game will be led by Joquez Smith and Junior Vandeross. Defensively, AJ Cottrill, who had 152 tackles last season, is back to lead a linebacking group that includes Troy Bowles and Todd Bowles Jr, whose father is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator. Bishop Verot returns the bulk of its playmakers from last year’s team that made the Class 3A region final. The biggest thing Jesuit has to stop is the Vikings’ passing combination of quarterback Jacob Azizi to receiver Malik Curtis, who has already committed to Miami. 

Pinkos pick: Bishop Verot by 1

Putnam’s prediction: Jesuit 24, Bishop Verot 21

Which team will win?
Which team will win?
Which team will win?

Carrollwood Day at Northside Christian, 7 p.m.

Seating capacity: Northside Christian has arranged for tickets to be available for parents and immediate family only with an additional 50 available for students and 25 for staff members. The school also has allotted 120 tickets for Carrollwood Day. 

Masks: Fans need to bring one but only have to wear it when social distancing cannot be practiced. 

Tickets: Sold pre-sale only

Live stream: Northside Christian and Pixellot system in place and is working with the NFHS Network to livestream the game. 

Outlook: Carrollwood Day was fortified this offseason with the addition of several high-profile transfers, including four from Seffner Christian — linemen Clay Wedin and Brandon Cleveland and tight ends Michael Trigg and Tony Livingston. That’s not all. The Patriots also picked up defensive lineman Desmond Mamudi (Steinbrenner), offensive linemen Mason Arnold (Jesuit) and James Colston (Middleton) and running back Kylen Webb (Hillsborough) and receiver Amare Brown (Jefferson). That infusion of talent should do wonders in helping the Patriots rebound from an 0-9 season a year ago. Northside Christian was dealt a blow with the loss of Tre’quan Hilton, who tore his ACL. Hilton ran for more than 1,900 yards and scored 25 touchdowns on the ground last season. The Mustangs will go more by committee to replace that production with Zuri Watson and Jon’tae Ferguson getting the bulk of the work. The big key in this game is well Northside Christian does in stopping Trigg. In last year’s Class 3A region final, Trigg had five touchdown receptions against the Mustangs to lead Seffner Christian to a win.  

Pinkos pick: Northside Christian by 24

Putnam’s prediction: Carrollwood Day 28, Northside Christian 21

Which team will win?
Which team will win?
Which team will win?

IMG White at Tampa Catholic, 7 p.m.

Seating capacity: 500

Masks: Fans need to bring one but only have to wear it when social distancing cannot be practiced. 

Tickets: Sold out. They were available to players, cheerleaders, Crusaderettes and students at school. 

Live stream: Available through Tampa Catholic’s YouTube and Facebook channels.  

Outlook: After making it to the Class 4A region final last season, Tampa Catholic is poised to make another deep playoff run based on the talent returning. The running game is strong, led by Antoine Hill, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season.Paving the way up front are three linemen who have already committed to colleges — Cole Essek (Appalachian State) and twins Jordan and Jaden Sandlin (both to FAU). There is a lot back on the other side of the ball, too, with defensive back DD Snyder, an Illinois commit, headlining a group of returners that includes linebacker Edward Zanato and athlete Lewis Carter, among others. The Crusaders should have no trouble cruising in its opener. IMG White has gone a combined 2-4 against area foes in the last two years and has been outscored in those games by a combined 185-74. 

Pinkos pick: Tampa Catholic by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Tampa Catholic 42, IMG White 14

Which team will win?
Which team will win?
Which team will win?

Cambridge Christian at St. Petersburg Catholic, 7 p.m.

Seating capacity: Tickets are available only to the families of SPC players and cheerleaders on the home side. There is a maximum of five per athlete or cheerleader and they have to sit together. Cambridge Christian has 100 tickets available on the away side. 

Masks: Required for all fans

Tickets: Available pre-sale, online only

Live stream: SPC is in the process of setting up a livestream through the NFHS Network. Cambridge Christian also will be livestreaming the game through its school network. 

Outlook: First-year Cambridge Christian coach Chad Walker, who came over from Land O’ Lakes, still is getting acclimated to his team, a tough thing to do with no spring ball and limited drills in the summer. The quarterback competition is between Chris Stephenson and Connor Zaragoza, who transferred from Gaither. Whoever emerges has the luxury of throwing to a trio of receivers — Noah Froelich, Gavin Martinez and Preston Snider — who combined for more than 1,000 yards last season. Defensively, the Lancers are by linebackers Noah Kent and Kyle Pierre, lineman Dyquan Vance and Josiah Massie and safety Jaiden Bivens, among others. S. Petersburg Catholic’s passing game took a hit with the loss of DeSean Henry, who transferred to Boca Ciega. But the Barons still have playmakers with quarterback CJ Denmark and running back Ke’von Martin, the team leading rusher (842 yards last season), both returning. The team also was bolstered with the addition of Martell Mott, who transferred from Admiral Farragut. 

Pinkos pick: Cambridge by 25

Putnam’s prediction: Cambridge Christian 21, St. Petersburg Catholic 20

Which team will win?
Which team will win?
Which team will win?

Central Florida Christian at Zephyrhills Christian, 7 p.m.

Seating capacity: N/A

Masks: Will be encouraged when fans cannot social distance

Tickets: Purchased at the gate

Live stream: None

Outlook: This is the first meeting between the teams. Zephyrhills Christian has some key pieces back on offense with the return of quarterback Caleb Gaskin, running back Andrew Felder and receiver Demetri Wade. There also were a few additions with Michael Carter (Anclote), Antonio Hunt (Chamberlain), Gary Nicoles (American Collegiate) and Nick Novo (Zephyrhills) all coming via transfer. The biggest loss was defensive lineman Malik Jones, now a freshman at Florida Atlantic. Joey Dobbs is the top returning lineman and will play on both sides of the ball. 

Pinkos pick: Zephyrhills Christian by 14

Putnam’s prediction: Zephyrhills Christian 28, Central Florida Christian 14

Which team will win?
Which team will win?
Which team will win?

Lakeside Christian at Gainesville Oak Hall, 7 p.m.

Seating capacity: 25 percent. A small section is designated for Oak Hall students. The rest are restricted to family members. 

Masks: Required for fans at all times. 

Tickets: N/A

Live stream: None. 

Outlook: Lakeside is coming off a state semifinal appearance and returns four seniors — center Eason Lanier, running back/linebacker Bradley McLane, running back/tight end/linebacker Nick Rivera and kicker Antonio Soriano — all of whom played since they were freshmen. James Jackson, a junior, takes over at quarterback. Oak Hall, which made the playoffs in Class 3A last season, is moving down from traditional 11-man football to eight-man this season.  

Pinkos pick: Oak Hall by 19

Putnam’s prediction: Lakeside Christian 27, Oak Hall 26

Which team will win?
Which team will win?
Which team will win?

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No more fans at Pasco County sporting events after COVID spike

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Stock football stadium

Pasco County has decided to limit all athletic activities to students and coaches due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases. 

That means no fans or media members in attendance. 

The new rule starts on Monday and will last until the positivity rate, which has climbed to nine percent, drops to below five percent for a rolling seven-day period. 

In the past two weeks, two county football teams — Wiregrass Ranch and Fivay — had to forfeit playoff games because of a player testing positive for coronavirus and multiple team members and coaches having to quarantine due to contact tracing. 

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Coronavirus

COVID case ends Osceola’s volleyball season

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Osceola, which made the Class 5A region finals in volleyball last season, had to forfeit Monday’s district quarterfinal match because its entire junior varsity and varsity teams are quarantining after a player tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 25, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said.  

By forfeiting, the Warriors ended their season. They were ranked fifth in the state in Class 5A and were expected to go on another deep playoff run.

“We have to follow what the health officials tell us,” Bennett said. “It’s tough because Osceola is one of our best volleyball teams in the county. I talked to the Florida High School Athletic Association and they said there were plenty of other teams around the state in the same situation.”

Under CDC and Pinellas County health department guidelines, any student athlete who tests positive must be quarantined, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15-minute duration without any face covering. Osceola’s quarantine ends on Oct. 19, a week after the district tournament.. 

All the players have currently tested negative, including the one who was originally positive. But the quarantine did not end. The Warriors also had to postpone their appearance in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. That title game against St. Petersburg will be made up once the Green Devils’ season ends. 

“It’s heartbreaking for the seniors to have their season end this way, but we’re really excited for the chance to play the PCAC Final at home for senior night as our last match of the season, against our toughest competition, St Petersburg,” Osceola coach Ashley Martin said.”It will feel like a state championship since a trophy is involved.”    

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Coronavirus

PHU cancels season opener after a football player tests positive for coronavirus

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Palm Harbor University’s season opener against rival East Lake this Friday has been cancelled after a Hurricanes player tested positive for coronavirus, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett confirmed in a text message.

It was unclear how many PHU players are currently under quarantine. According to CDC and county health department guidelines, a player who tests positive must quarantine, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15 minute duration with a face covering.

The Hurricanes next game is scheduled for Sept. 17 at Wharton. Bennett said the school is looking into moving that game to Saturday or Monday to avoid another cancellation.

The Eagles will now host Sarasota Riverview in Friday’s opener.

This is the fourth area football program that had to cancel its season opener after having a player test positive for the virus.

Hillsborough and Jefferson, which were supposed to play on Friday, both have players under quarantine. Their opponents, Chamberlain and Gaither, are now kicking off the regular season against each other.

Zephyrhills is in a similar situation and had to cancel its first two games.

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