Hillsborough County top 15 football rankings

With no kickoff classics, the opening week of the season was the first time coaches were able to evaluate where their programs stood in a game situation since last season. Some were still figuring out quarterback competitions. Others are still trying to put the right pieces in place. It is still a work in progress. But we also have a better understanding of how dominant some teams can be. Here are the rankings after the first week.

1. Gaither (1-0)

Up next: vs. Tampa Bay Tech (Thursday)

Last spot: No. 2

The Cowboys could have easily been the top-ranked team going into the season. They moved into the No. 1 spot after an efficient performance against rival Chamberlain. Kiael Kelly threw for 192 yards and accounted for four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). Ricky Parks had 80 yards rushing and ran for two scores. And the defense, led by linebacker Nick Bartalo (13 tackles, four sacks), did not allow a point (the Chiefs’ lone score came on a recovered fumble in the end zone). This week’s game is an even tougher test against Tampa Bay Tech and its high-powered passing game.  

2. Bloomingdale (1-0)

Up next: at Tampa Bay Tech (Sept. 25)

Last spot: No. 3

The top spot is debatable. The Bulls can certainly claim it, especially after knocking off area powerhouse Armwood 15-14 in the season opener. With the offense struggling, Bloomingdale came through with big plays on defense and special teams to pull out the win. Jamarion Neal recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and Philip Riley, a Notre Dame commit, returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Bloomingdale’s scheduled game against Durant this week was moved to Oct. 9. That gives the Bulls another week to prepare for their Sept. 25 matchup against Tampa Bay Tech. 


3. Armwood (0-1)

Up next: vs. Plant (Thursday night Identity Tampa Bay Game of the Week)

Last spot: No. 1 

The season opener was a frustrating one for the Hawks. Chris Davis had four sacks to lead a ferocious front. Cam’Ron Ransom threw for a pair of touchdowns. But it was not enough. Two critical plays — an errant snap that sailed into the end zone and kickoff return for a score — were the difference in Armwood’s 15-14 loss to Bloomingdale. There is no need to panic with a loss. The Hawks know this. The same thing happened in 2018. After a loss in the opener that season, Arwmood went on to win 13 straight to reach the state semifinals. On Thursday, the Hawks will look to get back on track against rival Plant. 

4.  Jesuit (2-0)

Up next: at Sarasota Booker

Last spot: No. 4 

Down 21-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Tigers rallied with three scores to beat Clearwater 35-21. Joe Pesansky threw for three touchdowns, all going to Carter French. The senior quarterback also ran for another. On defense, Aiden Clark returned an interception for a touchdown to round out the scoring and Todd Bowles had an interception to seal the win. Jesuit has a good shot to stay undefeated against Sarasota Booker, which is playing for the first time this season. 

5. Tampa Bay Tech (1-0)

Up next: at Gaither (Thursday)

Last spot: No. 5 

The Titans had nearly 500 yards of offense in a 34-10 win over defending Class 8A state semifinalist Steinbrenner. David Wright threw for 199 yards and a touchdown. Rod Gainey, already a freshman sensation, had 130 yards on the ground and ran for a score. And Jamari Gassett, a Buffalo commit, had two receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown and returned a punt for another score.The offense will be put to the test against Gaither in one of the best matchups this week. 

6. Plant City (1-0)

Up next: vs. Bradenton Manatee (Thursday)

Last spot: No. 6

The script was perfect for an opener. Against Riverview, the Raiders jumped out to a commanding lead and cruised to a 44-7 victory. Nearly everyone on offense contributed in helping Plant City rack up 529 yards. All three quarterbacks played. Seven players had at least one rushing attempt. And six receivers had at least one catch. Mario Williams, an Oklahoma commit, did the most damage, scoring twice on receptions, throwing for another touchdown and accounting for a pair of 2-point conversions. 

7. Tampa Catholic (2-0)

Up next: vs. Land O’ Lakes

Last spot: No. 7

The Crusaders snapped a five-game losing to one of their fiercest rivals, beating Clearwater Central Catholic 35-0 to remain undefeated. Antoine Hill ran for 105 yards and scored once on the ground. AJ Williams showed off his big-play potential with a pair of long touchdowns (71 yard reception and 55 yard punt return). And the defense recorded seven sacks and picked off two passes in the shutout. 

8. Berkeley Prep (0-0)

Up next: at Jesuit (Sept. 25)

Last spot: No. 8

The Buccaneers started practicing three weeks ago for what will be an abbreviated season. They picked up a game against Jesuit on Sept. 25, which will now serve as the opener. The matchup also marks the first time Berkeley Prep coach Dominick Ciao will face the Tigers since his departure in 2002. 

9. Newsome (1-0)

Up next: vs. Steinbrenner (Sept. 25)

Last spot: No. 11

As expected, the Wolves had to slug it out in a low-scoring, closely contested game against rival Durant in the opener. It took overtime before the outcome was decided. The Wolves’ Matthew Wingo ended it, scoring on his only carry for a 13-10 victory. In all, Newsome ran for 183 yards. The Wolves were supposed to play Lennard on Thursday but the game was pushed back to Oct. 9 because of a COVID-related issue. Now, Newsome has two weeks to prepare for Steinbrenner.   

10. Chamberlain (0-1)

Up next: vs. Bradenton Bayshore (Thursday)

Last spot: No. 9

Last weekend’s opener was a tough one against Gaither’s stacked roster. The Chiefs failed to score a touchdown on offense, marking the second time that has happened in the past three meetings. Chamberlain should be able to turn things around this week against Bradenton Bayshore. 

11. Steinbrenner (0-1)

Up next: at Alonso (Thursday)

Last spot: No. 10

After winning 12 straight regular season games from 2018-19, the Warriors have now lost two straight, a streak that dates back to last year’s regular season finale. There were some bright spots in last week’s 34-10 loss to Tampa Bay Tech. Deon Silas, an Iowa State commit, had 203 all-purpose yards. And linebacker Austin Brannen recorded 13 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Steinbrenner will try to even its record against Alonso on Thursday. 

12. Hillsborough (0-0)

Up next: at Armwood (Sept. 25)

Last spot: No. 12

The Terriers have to wait another week before starting their regular season with a tough matchup against Armwood. This gives Hillsborough three full weeks to prepare for the Hawks.

13. Jefferson (0-0)

Up next: at Middleton (Thursday)

Last week: No. 13 

The Dragons had their scheduled opener pushed back to the final week of the regular season. They now travel to Middleton to open their season. 

14. Robinson (1-0)

Up next: at Gibbs

Last week: No. 15

The Parks brothers put on a show in a season-opening 46-0 victory over Brandon. Rickeem, the quarterback, threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more. Arkese, a freshman running back, had a nice high school debut, rushing for 95 yards and scoring once. The Knights are in a good spot with their next three games all coming against teams that had a losing record last season. 

15. Lennard (1-0)

Up next: vs. Alonso (Sept. 25)

Last week: Unranked

Quarterback Gavin Henley threw for 247 yards and Amarie Jones returned an interception for a touchdown to help the Longhorns knock off Plant 29-22 in the season opener. With its game against Newsome pushed back to Oct. 9, Lennard will spend this week getting ready for Alonso on Sept. 25. 

On the bubble

Carrollwood Day (1-1), East Bay (1-0), Wharton (1-0), Sumner (1-0), Cambridge Christian (2-0).