Football: Tampa Bay top 25 (week 2)

By rallying in the final minutes to pull off a 24-21 victory over Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas last week, Jesuit solidified itself not only as the top team in the area but also one of the best in the state — and nation.

1. Jesuit (2-0)

Up next: vs. Bloomingdale

Last spot: No. 1

Why they stayed put: The Tigers did what no other Tampa Bay area team has ever done — beat Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. Down by four points, Jesuit rallied with a touchdown pass from Luke Knight to Jaydn Girard with nine seconds left for a 24-21 victory. The historical win put the Tigers in the spotlight. They are now ranked 20th nationally by MaxPreps and the favorite to win the Class 6A state title. But Jesuit still has work to do starting with Friday’s matchup against Class 7A defending state semifinalist Bloomingdale.    

2. Hillsborough (2-0)

Up next: at Tampa Bay Tech

Last spot: No. 2

Why they stayed put: The Terriers had to hold their breath, but they accomplished a big task by holding on to beat nemesis Armwood last week to stay undefeated. Dominic Reaves only catch was a 45-yarder from Caleb Pierce that came with 1:30 remaining and turned out to be the game winner. It doesn’t get any easier for Hillsborough with a trip to face unbeaten Tampa Bay Tech. .  

3. Lakewood (2-0)

Up next: at Gibbs

Last spot: No. 3

Why they stayed put: The Spartans put their 20-game regular season win streak on the line when they faced defending 6A state semifinalist Palmetto last week. Anthony Colandrea threw for a touchdown and ran for another score to help Lakewood extend its streak to 21. Terrell Crosby, a Toledo commit, was Colandrea’s favorite target. Crosby finished with nine catches for 121 yards.

4. Gaither (2-0)

Up next: vs. Armwood

Last spot: No. 5

Why they moved up: Defense has been a big reason why the Cowboys are undefeated. They have allowed a combined 15 points in wins over Bloomingdale and Chamberlain. Now, the defensive front, led by Tawfiq Thomas and Mario Eugenio, will try to contain Hawks quarterback Murdolph Jones in an anticipated matchup on Friday. 

5. Armwood (1-1)

Up next: vs. Chamberlain

Last spot: No. 4 

Why they moved down: It was hard to move the Hawks down much at all after their performance against Hillsborough. Time simply ran out on Armwood, which drove down to the Terriers’ 2-yard line but were unable to spike the ball in time to stop the clock before the end of regulation in a 20-14 loss. Murdolph Jones threw for a pair of touchdowns in the second half to lead Armwood back from an early 13-0 deficit. 

6. Berkeley Prep (2-0)

Up next: at Robinson

Last spot: No. 6

Why they stayed put: The Buccaneers got past two Pinellas County rivals — Clearwater Central Catholic and Calvary Christian — to remain undefeated. But it was not easy. Last week, Berkeley Prep watched a 15-point fourth quarter lead evaporate and needed a stop on a 2-point conversion in the waning seconds to beat the Warriors 28-26. .  

7. Tampa Bay Tech (2-0)

Up next: vs. Hillsborough

Last spot: No. 7

Why they stayed put: The Titans outscored Plant City and Steinbrenner by a combined 87-30 to remain undefeated. The ground game, led by James Evans (312 yards and six touchdowns in the first two games), is a big reason for their success. On Friday, Tampa Bay Tech has a chance to vault up the rankings if it can knock off Hillsborough in a matchup of unbeatens.

8. Bloomingdale (1-1)

Up next: at Jesuit

Last spot: No. 9

Why they moved up: After losing to Gaither in the opener, the Bulls were in jeopardy of starting 0-2 last week against rival Newsome. Trailing 10-7 with the Wolves driving to seemingly put the game away in the final two minutes of regulation, Bloomingdale’s Jackson Sykes made the play of the game, forcing a fumble and returning nearly 90 yards to set up a short field goal that forced overtime and allowed the Bulls to eventually win 16-10.  

9. Newsome (1-1)

Up next: vs. Steinbrenner

Last spot: No. 8

Why they moved down: The Wolves came oh-so-close to remaining undefeated. A costly fumble in the final two minutes of regulation prevented Newsome from holding on to beat rival Bloomingdale. This week, the Wolves have to regroup against a familiar foe. Newsome faces Steinbrenner in a rematch of playoff games from the past two seasons (the teams split those postseason contests).  

10. Pinellas Park (2-0)

Up next: vs. Osceola

Last spot: No. 10

Why they stayed put: The Patriots opened up with challenging games against East Lake and Largo. Thanks to a balanced high-scoring offense and an improving defense, Pinellas Park won both by a combined 72-36. Isaiah Hampton has 208 yards rushing and Eric Jackson 174 receiving through the first two games. .  

11. Clearwater Central Catholic (1-1)

Up next: vs. Tampa Catholic

Last spot: No. 11

Why they moved up: The Marauders bounced back from an opening week loss to Berkeley Prep to beat Ocala Trinity Catholic 38-19. Quarterback Bryson Martin has a knack for finding the end zone on the ground with a combined five rushing touchdowns in the first two games. On Friday, CCC hosts Tampa Catholic in the annual clash between rivals. 

12. Tampa Catholic: (2-0)

Up next: at Clearwater Central Catholic

Last spot: No. 12

Why they stayed put: The Crusaders have been flying under the radar. They are undefeated thanks to a defense that allowed a combined seven points in wins over IMG Blue (42-7) and Lakeland Kathleen (9-0). The linebackers are the strength of that group, led by Lewis Carter (14 tackles) and Gavin Paul (13 tackles). . 

13. Wharton (1-0)

Up next: vs. Lennard

Last spot: No. 13

Why they stayed put: COVID cases and contact tracing forced the Wildcats to cancel their game against Jesuit. After a two week layoff, Wharton returns to host Lennard. The big matchup will be the Wildcats defense, which posted a shutout in the season opener, going up the Longhorns’ passing game that is capable of producing big plays.  

14. Zephyrhills (2-0)

Up next: at Fivay

Last spot: No. 14

Why they stayed put: The Bulldogs have started off strong, beating Lakeland Kathleen (16-12) and Hernando (43-2) to remain undefeated. Nick Sheldon and Theotis Smith have been leading the way on defense with a combined 28 tackles and four forced fumbles. 

15. Wiregrass Ranch (0-0)

Up next: vs. Mitchell

Last spot: No. 15 

Why they stayed put: The Bulls have been wanting to get back on the field to atone for their loss to Clearwater Central Catholic in the preseason. They get their chance after the opener two weeks ago against Hernando was postponed until November and last week’s game against Wesley Chapel was cancelled. . 

16. Mitchell (2-0)

Up next: at Wiregrass Ranch

Last spot: No. 19

Why they moved up: Defense is a big reason for the Mustangs’ perfect start, especially after shutouts against Fivay (43-0) and River Ridge (28-0) the first two weeks of the season. The defensive line recorded a combined 10 sacks in those games, including six by Tyler Geary.  

17. Plant City (1-1)

Up next: Idle

Last spot: No. 17

Why they stayed put: One week after getting shut out, the Raiders posted one of their own, beating Jefferson 21-0 to get to .500. Reggie Bush Jr. ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns and Rhet Conyers recorded 15 tackles on defense. 

18. Clearwater (1-1)

Up next: at Countryside (Thurs.)

Last spot: No. 18

Why they stayed put: The Tornadoes evened their record with a 35-28 win over East Lake. The offense has been putting up big numbers, especially in the passing game. Aidan MacLean has thrown for a combined 641 yards and six touchdowns. His favorite target is CJ Lee, who has 340 receiving yards and five touchdowns in the first two games. 

19. Nature Coast (2-0)

Up next: vs. Springstead

Last spot: No. 22 

Why they moved up: The defense has been stingy, allowing less than 200 yards combined in wins over Tavares (14-10) and Pasco (42-0). Against the Pirates, Donovan Heatly had nine tackles and two sacks to lead the defense. The run game also was strong, highlighted by Christian Cromer’s 164 yards and four touchdowns on the ground last week.  

20. Carrollwood Day (1-0)

Up next: at Calvary Christian

Last spot: No. 25

Why they moved up: The Patriots and their loaded lineup have been dominant in wins over St. Petersburg Catholic (39-13) and Northside Christian (49-13). Anthony Carrie has benefitted running behind a massive offensive line and has a combined 411 yard and six touchdowns in the first two games. 

21. Largo (1-1)

Up next: Idle

Last spot: No. 20

Why they moved down: The Packers will have to wait to rebound from their loss to Pinellas Park after this week’s game against Boca Ciega was likely postponed until Oct. 7 because the Pirates are dealing with COVID cases. . 

22. Calvary Christian (1-1)

Up next: vs. Carrollwood Day

Last spot: No. 21

Why they moved up: The Warriors are quickly becoming the Cardiac Kids. After winning in the final three minutes against Lakeland Victory Christian in the opener, Calvary Christian neary pulled off another one in a 28-26 loss to Berkeley Prep that came down to the final seconds.  

23. Seffner Christian (2-0)

Up next: at Foundation Academy

Last spot: No, 24

Why they moved up: It has not always been pretty, but the Crusaders have remained undefeated thanks to second half surges against Master’s Academy (26-13) and North Florida Educational Institute (18-14). 

24. Durant (2-0)

Up next: vs. Brandon

Last spot: Unranked

Why they moved in: The Cougars are undefeated under first-year coach Claybo Varnum. They keep winning thanks to a running game that is averaging nearly 300 yards per game and a defense that has picked off five passes, including two each by Jayden Cornelius and Luther Scarlett. 

25. Springstead (2-0)

Up next: at Nature Coast

Last spot: Unranked

Why they moved in: The Eagles have put the struggles of last year behind them with blowouts over Citrus (35-0) and Weeki Wachee (37-0) to start the season. The schedule becomes more challenging starting with Friday’s game against rival Nature Coast in a matchup of unbeatens.   

On the bubble: Northeast (2-0), Hudson (2-0), Wesley Chapel (1-0), Plant (2-0), East Bay (2-0), Hernando (0-1), Boca Ciega (1-1), Land O’ Lakes (2-0), Steinbrenner (0-2).