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Pasco County super seven

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No more waiting or wondering when the season will begin. After a delayed start, football is back with most Pasco County public schools kicking off the regular season on Friday. That also means it is time for rankings. Here is the first super seven of the season.

1. Mitchell

Last year: 10-2 (lost in region semifinals)

Up next: vs. Pinellas Park (Sept. 18)

Andy Schmitz has guided the Mustangs to the playoffs every year since taking over in 2014, including five straight district titles in that span. That postseason streak should continue with perhaps the fastest and most complete team Mitchell has had during this recent run. But the Mustangs will have to wait until getting started. This week’s opener against Land O’ Lakes was cancelled after the Gators’ varsity and junior varsity teams went through quarantine due to a positive coronavirus test. On offense, Mitchell returns quarterback Evan Brennan (2,301 yards, 31 touchdowns last season) and two of his top receivers, Johnny Fairbank (697 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Ronnie Fiumara (424 yards, six touchdowns). The Mustangs also added Maguire Anderson, who transferred from Sunlake and recently picked up an offer from Valparaiso. Mitchell’s opportunistic defense got even better in the offseason with the addition of Cole Castro, who transferred from River Ridge. Castro had 10 interceptions last season and was named the Sunshine Athletic Conference’s Western Division defensive player of the year. With Castro, the secondary has four starters — Nic Fairbank, Khamari Smith and Garnell Wilds are the others — who had a combined 21 interceptions a year ago. And that total does include linebacker Johnny Fairbank’s’ seven picks. 

2. Wiregrass Ranch

Last year: 7-4 (lost in region quarterfinals)

Up next: at St. Petersburg

There should really be a 1A and 1B at the top of the rankings. That’s how even the Bulls are with Mitchell and the debate over which team is the likely will not be settled until the two square off on Oct. 9 in the most anticipated matchup in Pasco County this season. Wiregrass Ranch quarterback Rocco Becht, who threw for 1,985 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first full season as starter, has gotten the attention of colleges. In the offseason, the three-star prospect picked up offers from five schools, including FIU, Iowa State, Toledo and Wake Forest. Though the Bulls top two receivers graduated, they do return receiver Broden Guirl and tight end Gabe Thompson, who has committed to Army. On defense, the biggest loss was Dylan Ridolph, who set nearly every school record for sacks and is now playing at Catawba. There still are some playmakers left, most notably defensive back Grady Clower (three interceptions last season) and linebacker Craig Kailimai. Kicker Adam Mihalek is among the best in the area. 

3. River Ridge

Last year: 8-3 (lost in region quarterfinals)

Up next: at Fivay

The loss of Cole Castro, now at Mitchell, hurt because the versatile playmaker contributed on both sides of the ball. But the Royal Knights still have talent to win another district title. Trenton Hawks is back at quarterback and should get plenty of protection from a veteran offensive line that includes Robby Rinaldi and Alex Storey. The defense is led by linebackers Connor Finer and Aidan Benjamin and defensive back Aaron Wyman. 

4. Pasco

Last year: 4-6

Up next: at Auburndale 

The Pirates closed out last season with two straight wins, including a huge 27-9 victory over bitter rival Zephyrhills in the finale. Devin Jernigan returns at quarterback. Graduation took away a lot of the production at the other skill positions. JaBrounze Cooley, a receiver, and running backs Amir Burgess and Savion Spaights, will be counted to be go-to guys. Burgess, who had a team-leading 96 tackles last season, leads the linebacking crew once again. On the edge, watch out for Ja’bari Mention, who had three sacks last season. 

5. Zephyrhills

Last season: 5-5

Up next: at Tampa Catholic (Sept. 25)

The Bulldogs had to endure some setbacks. A player tested positive for coronavirus last week, forcing most of the team to quarantine. Because of that, Zephyrhills had to cancel its first two games of the season and likely will have just six games on the schedule. Once the Bulldogs play on Sept. 25, they can lean on a trio of skill players — quarterback Timothy Jackson, running back Zyre Roundtree and receiver Tre Gallimore — for offensive production. Gallimore, who had four interceptions last season, is part of an opportunistic defense that includes Jaylin Thomas. Up front, look for Maguire Neal (13 sacks last season) to apply the pressure. 

6. Fivay

Last season: 7-3

Up next: at River Ridge

After winning a combined three games in his first two seasons, Falcons coach Matt Durchik started seeing results with what was being built. Fivay won four games in 2018 and seven last year. That 7-3 record a year was the program’s first winning season since 2012. The foundation still is there for continued success. On offense, it starts with the running game with two productive backs, Austin Blanford and Angel Gonzalez-Gordon both returning. The defense is led by defensive back Melvin Rivera, who had 112 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception last season. 

7. Sunlake

Last season: 4-6

Up next: at Wesley Chapel

The Seahawks went through some growing pains under Trey Burdick, who became just the program’s second coach last year when he took over the legendary Bill Browning. The result was the team’s fourth straight season going 4-6. Sunlake is equipped to take the next step, especially in the passing game with the return of quarterback Kevin Spillane. Defensively, the Seahawks graduated their top three leading tacklers. The top returner is linebacker Mitch Hammond. 

On the bubble

Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills Christian 

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Friday night football forecast

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Must-see matchups

Northeast (6-0) at Boca Ciega (4-2), 7

A win would all but clinch the Class 6A, District 11 title for the Vikings. That could be tough considering Northeast is dealing with some injuries. 

Putnam’s prediction: Boca Ciega 21-20

Steinbrenner (3-4) at East Lake (2-5), 7

The winner becomes the overwhelming favorite to take the Class 8A, District 11 title. 

Putnam’s prediction: Steinbrenner 17-13

Armwood (4-2) at Bloomingdale (3-3), 7:30

The Hawks won both meetings in 2019. The Bulls won both meetings last season. The stakes are not as high this time around with neither team in the same district but still a riveting rivalry. 

Putnam’s prediction: Armwood 27-21

Nature Coast (4-2) at Hudson (5-1), 7:30

The Sharks already have a loss in Class 5A, District 9 play and cannot afford another if they want to stay within striking distance of the Cobras and Zephyrhills at the top of the standings. 

Putnam’s prediction: Nature Coast 24-21

Largo (2-4) at Mitchell (6-1), 7:30

This is a must-win for the Packers to have any shot at the Class 7A, District 9 title.

Putnam’s prediction: Mitchell 20-14

Tampa Bay Tech (6-0) at Wiregrass Ranch (4-1), 7:30

A Titans win would set up a showdown with Wharton next week to decide the Class 7A, District 10 title. This matchups features two differing styles on offense with Tampa Bay Tech’s ground attack going up against the Bulls’ aerial assault.  

Putnam’s prediction: Tampa Bay Tech 28-21

Plant City (4-2) at Durant (6-1), 7:30

The host Cougars already have a loss in Class 8A, District 10 and cannot afford another one to keep their title hopes alive. 

Putnam’s prediction: Durant 17-16

Tampa Catholic (3-2) at Land O’ Lakes (6-0), 7:30

This is the Gators’ toughest test so far this season, one that could end up derailing their perfect regular season. 

Putnam’s prediction: Tampa Catholic 34-28

East Bay (5-1) at Palmetto (2-3), 7:30

A pivotal Class 7A, District 11 matchup the visiting Indians need to keep their district title hopes alive. 

Putnam’s prediction: Palmetto 14-13 

Braden River (5-0) at Clearwater Central Catholic (4-2), 7:30

The tough schedule continues for the Marauders who face the undefeated the Pirates. 

Putnam’s prediction: Clearwater Central Catholic 21-16

The remaining schedule

Bishop McLaughlin at Oasis, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Bishop McLaughlin 21-19

Cambridge Christian at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 38-20

Berkeley Prep at Lakeland Victory Christian, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Berkeley Prep 34-7

Indian Rocks Christian at Sarasota Out-of-Door, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Indian Rocks Christian 21-14

Alonso at Palm Harbor University, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Palm Harbor University 16-14

Keswick Christian at Northside Christian, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Northside Christian 37-31

St. Petersburg at Seminole, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Seminole 28-7

Academy at the Lakes at Shorecrest, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Shorecrest 35-21

Zephyrhills Christian at North Florida Educational Institute, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Zephyrhills Christian 42-21

Hardee at Lakewood, 7

Putnam’s prediction: Lakewood 24-6

Central at Springstead, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Springstead 35-0

Bradenton Manatee at Lennard, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Lennard 35-21

Wharton at Strawberry Crest, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Wharton 35-0

Spoto at Bradenton Southeast, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Bradenton Southeast 20-14

Brandon at Sumner, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Sumner 41-7

Zephyrhills at Cypress Creek, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Zephyrhills 27-16

King at Middleton, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: King 28-20

Blake at Hillsborough, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Hillsborough 34-6

Plant at Riverview, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Plant 35-14

Robinson at Chamberlain, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Chamberlain 27-14

Gulf, at Dunedin 7

Putnam’s prediction: Dunedin 21-12

Jesuit at Jefferson, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Jesuit 31-7

Freedom at Sunlake, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Sunlake 21-6

Sickles at Gaither, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Gaither 28-27

Pasco at Belleview, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Belleview 35-0

Fivay at River Ridge, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: River Ridge 41-14

Wesley Chapel at Weeki Wachee, 7:30

Putnam’s prediction: Wesley Chapel 28-0

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Football leaders for Tampa Bay, Week 8

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The statistical standouts on offense and defense for Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. 

Offense

Passing yards

2,130 Anthony Colandrea, Jr., Lakewood (22 TDs, 5 INTs)

1,597 Brandon Royal, So., Sickles (21 TDs, 4 INTs)

1,431 Hunter Young, Sr., Hudson (18 TDs, 2 INTs)

1,365 Aidan MacLean, Sr., Clearwater (17 TDs, 5 INTs)

1,349 Luca Stanzani, Sr., Clearwater Academy (14 TDs, 3 INTs)

1,342 Gavin Henley, Sr., Lennard (15 TDs, 6 INTs)

1,336 Parker Stirnkorb, Jr., Dunedin (16 TDs, 17 INTs)

1,315 Jacob Drackett, So., Calvary Christian (12 TDs, 7 INTs)

1,288 Murdolph Jones, Jr., Armwood (15 TDs, 7 INTs)

1,261 Kyle Horvath, So., Land O’ Lakes (18 TDs, 0 INTs)

1,251 Owen Walls, Sr., Cypress Creek (9 TDs, 5 INTs)

1,210 Trenton Hawks, Sr., River Ridge (11 TDs, 5 INTs)

1,199 Will Griffin, 8th, Northside Christian (15 TDs, 7 INTs)

1,109 Brooks Bentley, Jr., Gaither (7 TDs, 5 INTs)

1,033 Jackson Jensen, So., Carrollwood Day (9 TDs, 2 INTs)

1,029 Luke Knight, So., Jesuit (9 TDs, 3 INTs)

1,003 Jayce Nixon, Fr., Zephyrhills Christian (11 TDs, 2 INTs)

987 Rocco Becht., Sr., Wiregrass Ranch (15 TDs, 1 INT)

982 Bryson Martin, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic (7 TDs, 2 INTs)

954 Garrett Gurney, Sr., Seminole (6 TDs, 12 INTs)

947 Connor Dugan, Sr., Boca Ciega (10 TDs, 4 INTs)

900 Riley Allan, Sr., Osceola (10 TDs, 4 INTs)

859 Ty Robinson, So. Steinbrenner (6 TDs, 8 INTs)

807 Caleb Pierce, Sr., Hillsborough (5 TDs, 3 INTs)

800 Charles Coney, Jr., Bloomingdale (8 TDs, 7 INTs)

Rushing yards

1,120 Luke Yoder, Jr., Palm Harbor University (7 TDs)

1,065 Dontrevious Jackson, Sr., Zephyrhills (10 TDs)

946 Joquez Smith, Jr., Jesuit (12 TDs)

876 Christian Cromer, So., Nature Coast (13 TDs)

875 Anthony Carrie, So., Carrollwood Day (14 TDs)

850 Jaden Griffin, Sr., Countryside (12 TDs)

847 Jason Albritton, Sr., Newsome (6 TDs)

794 Travis Bates, Sr., Berkeley Prep (12 TDs)

785 Lenwood Sapp, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic ( 4 TDs)

771 Sammy Miller Jr., Jr., Gibbs (4 TDs)

723 Dontarious Shoats, So., Riverview  ( 2 TDs)

713 James Evans, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech (12 TDs)

707 Isaiah Hampton, Jr., Pinellas Park (5 TDs)

700 Jaylin Thomas, Sr., Zephyrhills (6 TDs)

665 Merton Thagne, Sr., Clearwater Academy (8 TDs)

648 AJ Blanton, Sr., Gulf (3 TDs)

587 Markese Norfleet, Jr., Northeast (8 TDs)

576 Jordan Mouzon, Jr., Calvary Christian (4 TDs)

569 Kirby Vorhees, Jr., Steinbrenner (8 TDs)

564 Jaylan Blake, Sr., Wesley Chapel (6 TDs)

559 Ti’lan McGee, So., East Lake (5 TDs)

547 Calub Connell, Jr., Durant (10 TDs)

539 Terrion Williams, Sr., Pinellas Park (4 TDs)

536 Ivan Brown, Jr., Osceola (7 TDs)

535 Jaelin Sneed, So., East Bay (9 TDs)

Receiving yards

722 Kennen Ayala, Jr., Land O’ Lakes (11 TDs)

641 Eelijah Singleton, Jr., Lennard (8 TDs)

625 CJ Lee, Sr.,Clearwater (11 TDs)

595 Dylan Djete, Sr., Clearwater Academy (10 TDs)

584 Eugene Wilson III, Jr., Gaither (4 TDs)

579 Ladamien Starks, Sr., Hudson (9 TDs)

573 CJ Lewis, So., Carrollwood Day (5 TDs)

549 Javohn Thomas, Sr., Sickles (7 TDs)

547 Nate Johnson, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic (5 TDs)

523 Jakari Williams, Sr., Sickles (6 TDs)

477 Terrell Crosby, Sr., Lakewood (4 TDs)

458 Michael Jelks, So., Dunedin (4 TDs)

449 Julius Quinones, Jr., River Ridge (9 TDs)

443 Amari Niblack, Sr., Lakewood (5 TDs)

422 Sean Cuono, Fr., St. Petersburg Catholic (3 TDs)

412 Josh Robinson, Fr., Calvary Christian (6 TDs)

405 Dontrell Clerkley, Sr., Cypress Creek (2 TDs)

397 David Pomales, Sr., Sickles (8 TDs)

388 Ha’Keem Monroe, Sr., Lennard (5 TDs)

386 David James, Sr., Clearwater (2 TDs)

379 One Williams, Sr., Northside Christian (6 TDs)

377 Jacob Ridriguez, Sr., Dunedin (5 TDs)

375 Jaydn Girard, Sr., Jesuit (3 TDs)

371 Malik Brown, So., Armwood (7 TDs)

365 Bredell Richardson, So., Carrollwood Day (6 TDs)

Defense

Tackles

97 Jordan Novomestky, Sr., Springstead

84 Colin Bernstein, Sr., Steinbrenner

82 Cortland Mitchell, Sr., Osceola

80 Jacob Reed, Jr., Durant

75 Brogan Coleman, So., Osceola

67 Sam Sternberger, Sr., Hernando

66 Garrick Ponder, Sr., Pinellas Park

65 Anthony Weaver, Sr., Keswick Christian

65 Niko Gnann, So., Riverview

65 Logan Fikar, Sr., Gaither

65 Elijah Mills, Jr., Countryside

64 Rhet Conyers, Sr., Plant City

63 Jalyn Turner, Jr., Calvary Christian

62 Caden Huffman, Sr., Newsome

61 AJ Cottrill, Sr., Jesuit

61 Malachi McCalip, Sr., Pinellas Park

60 Cole Highsmith, Jr., Plant City

60 Al’Vondre Lewis, Jr., Sumner

59 Brady Nowlan, Jr., Nature Coast

58 Adarius Hayes, So., Largo

58 Dominick Murphy, Sr., Lennard

57 Matt Hensley Jr., Jr., Wesley Chapel

57 Braylon Henry, Sr., Lennard

56 Joseph Sipp Jr., Sr., Hillsborough

56 Caleb Coburn, Jr., East Lake

Sacks

11 Zyon Vaughn-Nobles, So., Zephyrhills Christian

10 Keyon Clark, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech

10 Tyler Geary, Sr., Mitchell

9 Keon Keeley, Jr., Berkeley Prep

7.5 Elias Williams, So., Hudson

7 Booker Pickett Jr., So., Wharton

7 Isaiah Nizon, Jr., Lakewood

6 Cole Highsmith, Jr., Plant City

6 Deondre Randall, Sr., Largo

6 Isaiah Hastings, Sr., Clearwater Academy

6 William Miller, So., Steinbrenner

6 Brandon Cleveland, Sr., Carrollwood Day

6 Thomas Puhek, Jr., Carrollwood Day

6 Leo Tabakovic, Jr., Durant

5.5 Derrick Brantley, Fr., Northeast

5.5 Antonio Camon, Jr., Tampa Bay Tech

5 Clark Leonard, Sr., Clearwater Academy

5 Reginald Pry, Zephyrhills Christian 

5 Kaiden Gregorie, Jr., Dunedin

5 Garrick Ponder, Sr., Pinellas Park

5 DJ Haynes, Sr., Plant City

5 Jaheim Borden, Jr., Tampa Bay Tech

5 Curtis Roberts, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic

5 Al’Vondre Lewis, Jr., Sumner

5 Yadiel Vazquez Benitez, Sr., Springstead

5 Taveon Wheeler, Jr., Lakewood

5 Carson Burbee, Sr., Countryside

5 Travis Jandrlich, Sr., Newsome

5 John Finch, Sr., River Ridge

5 D.J. Jones, So., Riverview

5 Jack Hostetler, Sr., East Lake

5 Rashard Hartwell, So., Lakewood

5 Pahree Reed, Sr., Lakewood

Interceptions

12 Terrell Crosby, Sr., Lakewood

5 RJ Stroud, Jr., Armwood

5 David Searles, Jr., Searles

5 Amir Austin, Sr., Newsome

4 Cameron Campbell, Jr., Wharton

3 Jashon Williams, So., Jefferson

3 Angel Ortiz, Sr., Gulf

3 De’von Walton, Jr., Gibbs

3 Shane Froelich, Jr., Cambridge Christian

3 Drelin Pittman, Sr., Gaither

3 Maceo Bennett, Sr., Clearwater

3 Jordan Ortiz, Sr., Riverview

3 Jayden Cornelius, Fr., Durant

3 Eric Jackson, Sr., Pinellas Park

3 Gavin Hughes, Jr., Alonso

3 London Hall, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic

3 Amari Ray, Jr., East Lake

3 Jaden Shorter, Sr., Lakewood

3 Colin MacLean, Sr., East Lake

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FNF Campus Tour Preview: Armwood at Bloomingdale

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Armwood (4-2) at Bloomingdale (3-3), 7:30

Three things to know

Riveting rivalry

This has become a series to watch, especially the past two seasons. In 2019, Armwood won both meetings, including a region quarterfinal matchup en route to advancing to the state semifinals. Last season, it was Bloomingdale’s turn. The Bulls won a 15-14 thriller in the season opener and prevailed in the region semifinals, too, en route to making the state semifinals for the first time. There are no more district implications (The Hawks are in 7A-10, while Bloomingdale is in 7A-11). But there still is plenty at stake. Both teams are coming off losses and need a win to regain some momentum. 

Defensive dynamos

The outcome could be decided on defense. After all, both teams have playmakers on that side of the ball. Armwood defensive back RJ Stroud has picked off five passes, three more than anyone else on the team. Bloomingdale defensive end Jackson Sykes has recorded a team-high four sacks, caused two fumbles and recovered one. 

Check out the FNF Campus Tour

The Friday Night Football Campus Tour, presented by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is a free, interactive event that includes games and prizes for all fans, including the opportunity to get Tampa Bay Buccaneers swag. A 15-foot-tall replica of the NFL’s Super Bowl trophy is on display at each stop.. Buccaneers cheerleaders and Captain Fear, the Bucs’ mascot, also will be in attendance.   

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