Football: Friday Night Forecast — Nov. 10, 2023

The regular season is over. Check out the previews — and the picks — for the first round of the playoffs in the Metro and Suburban Divisions.

Last week’s record: 35-8

Overall record: 372-107


Class 4

For the full MaxPreps bracket click here.

Tonight’s Area Region Quarterfinal Matchups
Region 2

No. 8 Riverview (7-3) at No. 1 Sumner (9-1), 7

This is a rematch from a game the host Stingrays won 40-7 last month. Despite being a district runnerup, Sumner gets to host because it is the top seed in the region and is playing another runnerup. The Sharks, under second-year coach Tony Rodriguez, have made great strides and are in the playoffs for the first time since 2019. They are trying to bounce back from a two-game losing streak. That could be tough against Sumner, which has been dominant since quarterback Greg Smith III returned from injury. In their last three games, the Stngrays have won by a combined 139-32.

Putnam’s pick: Sumner 35-14

No. 5 Durant (8-2) at No. 4 Palm Harbor University (8-2), 7:30

Both teams are district champions. The Hurricanes get to host because they are the higher seed. Playing on the road will not be a deterrent for the Cougars, who are undefeated in away games (5-0). Led by a balanced offense, Durant has scored 30 or more points in six games this season. That production will be tested against Palm Harbor University, which relied on its defense to win its first district title in school history. In the last three games, all wins, the Hurricanes have allowed a combined seven points and posted two shutouts. Gettig to 20 points will be key for the Cougars. After all, the only three games PHU allowed 20 or more points were all losses.

Putnam’s pick: Durant 21-13

No. 7 Plant City (6-4) at No. 2 Plant (8-2), 7

This is the second meeting between the teams this season. The host Panthers won the first matchup 42-0. Since starting 0-2, Plant has won eight straight games. The turnaround is due in large part to a defense that has allowed just 38 points in that stretch, including three straight shutouts last month. The Raiders, under coach Terrence Hicks, showed tremendous improvement this year. Plant City also comes in with some momentum after beating Strawberry Crest and Jefferson by a combined 97-20 in the last two weeks of the regular season.

Putnam’s pick: Plant 28-7

Class 3

For the full MaxPreps bracket click here.

Tonight’s Area Region Quarterfinal Matchups
Region 1

No. 7 Wharton (6-4) at No. 2 Armwood (9-1), 7:30

This is a rematch from a game the host Hawks won 27-13 in September. After missing the playoffs each of the last two seasons, Armwood returned to state prominence by winning a district title. And the Hawks keep getting better. In their last five games, all wins, they have outscored their opponents by a combined 245-60. Since starting the season 2-3, the Wildcats have won four of their last five games. The late season success has been keyed by a defense that has given up just seven points and recorded two shutouts in the last three games.

Putnam’s pick: Armwood 28-14

No. 6 Neptune Beach Fletcher (7-3) at No. 3 Tampa Bay Tech (8-2), 7:30

For the second time straight year, the Titans take on Fletcher in the opening round of the playoffs. Last year, Tampa Bay Tech traveled to Neptune Beach and won 34-3. This time, the Titans get to host. After winning its first eight games, Tampa Bay Tech stumbled, losing its final two in the regular season. The Senators, meanwhile, rebounded from an 0-2 start to win seven of their final eight games. Their only loss in that stretch was to First Coast by a point in overtime.

Putnam’s pick: Tampa Bay Tech 27-21

Region 2

No. 8 Pinellas Park (6-4) at No. 1 Jesuit (8-2), 7

The defending state semifinalist Tigers overcame a 1-2 start to win their last seven games, including victories over Armwood, Fort Myers Bishop Verot and Tampa Bay Tech, all of which were undefeated when they played. Jesuit has a trio of stars on offense in quarterback Will Griffin, running back Justin Thurman and receiver Wily Suarez. Last week, Griffin set a school record with seven touchdown passes in a win over rival Tampa Catholic. The Patriots battled through injuries and a key suspension to return to the playoffs. Expect Pinellas Park to rely heavily on their ground game, led by Emarian Triplett.

Putnam’s pick: Jesuit 30-14

No. 5 Northeast (7-3) at No. 4 Hillsborough (6-4), 7:30

The Vikings played as well as anyone down the stretch, winning four straight games, including victories over playoff-bound Pinellas Park and Largo the last two weeks. The Terriers, meanwhile, are trying to regroup after losing their final two regular season games to Jesuit and Wharton. For Hillsborough to turn things around, it has to get its offense back on track. In each of the Terriers’ six wins, they have scored 30 or more points. That could be tough against Northeast, which has allowed 14 points of less in six of its seven wins.

Putnam’s pick: Northeast 21-20

No. 7 East Bay (8-2) at No. 2 Largo (8-2), 7:30

This is a rematch from last year’s region semifinals that the host Packers won 28-12. Largo had its seven-game win streak snapped with a loss to Northeast in the regular season finale. Adarius Hayes, a Florida commit, has led a Packers’ defense that has allowed a combined 32 points in their last five games. The Indians will turn to Jaelin Sneed for production on offense. Sneed has rushed for more than 100 yards in eight games this season.

Putnam’s pick: Largo 17-14

No. 6 Gaither (5-5) at No. 3 St. Petersburg (8-2), 7:30

After making the playoffs with an at-large berth last season, the host Green Devils return as district champions. St. Petersburg’s success on offense is due to the legs of quarterback Jeff Jones. The junior has rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 26 touchdowns on the ground. His ability to escape would-be tacklers is a big reason the Green Devils have won eight straight games after an 0-2 start. The Cowboys, by contrast, have a more balanced attack, led by quarterback Jayce Nixon and running back Elija Mason.

Putnam’s pick: Gaither 35-28

Class 2

For the full MaxPreps bracket click here.

Tonight’s Area Region Quarterfinal Matchups
Region 2
No. 1 Berkeley Prep (8-2) at No. 8 Middleton (4-6), 7:30

Despite owning the top seed, the Buccaneers have to travel in the first round because they made with the playoffs with an at-large berth and are facing a district champion. Berkeley Prep’s only two losses were by a combined 14 points to Clearwater Central Catholic and Calvary Christian. On offense, the Buccaneers are led by the 1-2 rushing punch of Dallas Golden and Joseph Troupe. The Tigers won their first district title this season. After starting 0-4, Middleton won four of its last six games. Joshua Balloon is the Tigers’ leader is rushing and receiving yards on offense and the leading tackler on defense.

Putnam’s pick: Berkeley Prep 35-13

No. 5 Tampa Catholic (4-5_ at No. 4 Robinson (8-2), 7

In September, the teams met with the Knights winning 25-24 thanks to a successful two-point conversion. That ultimately helped Robinson win the district title under first-year coach Mike Williams, who came from Wharton. The Knights enter on a six-game win streak. Quarterback EJ Archield, who has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and ran for more than 500, has been a big part of Robinson’s success. The Crusaders have a prolific offense that is averaging 33 points per game. But the defense needs to tighten up after giving up a combined 117 points in Tampa Catholic’s last two losses.

Putnam’s pick: Robinson 37-24

No. 7 Lakewood (2-8) at No. 2 Calvary Christian (8-2), 7:30

This is a rematch from last year’s region final that the Spartans won 63-42. The Warriors have continued their success from a year ago and head into tonight’s quarterfinal with a seven-match win streak. The offense has maintained its efficiency, scoring 30 or more points in seven games this season. But the defense has done its part, too. Calvary Christian has allowed a combined 53 points in its last seven games. The Spartans, despite their struggles, emerged from a three-way tie with Boca Ciega and Gibbs to win a district title thanks to having the highest ranking among the three.

Putnam’s pick: Calvary Christian 42-14

No. 6 Blake (7-3) at No. 3 Clearwater (6-4), 7:30

The Tornadoes return to the playoffs an improved team from a year ago. They have wins over playoff-bound Northeast and Pinellas Park and nearly beat Largo. The offense is balanced with Jaylen White throwing for more than 1,500 yards and Ti’lan McGee running for than 1,300. The Yellow Jackets got off to a fast start, winning six of their first seven games, which was enough to secure a playoff berth with an at-large bid. But Blake is trying to regroup after losing two of its last three games.

Putnam’s pick: Clearwater 27-14


Class 4

For the full MaxPreps bracket click here.

Tonight’s Area Region Quarterfinal Matchups
Region 2

No. 8 Mitchell (6-4) at No. 1 Lakeland (7-3), 7:30

Once again, the Mustangs face the defending state champion Dreadnaughts in the playoffs. Unlike last year, a 47-12 Lakeland victory in the region semifinals, this year’s matchup has a different feel. For starters, the Dreadnaughts are depleted after having multiple players suspended for their role in a fight with rival Lakeland Kathleen, according to the Lakeland Ledger. Mitchell has won four of its last five games, the lone loss during that stretch coming against Springstead. Mustangs quarterback Cayden Thomas has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and running back Corey Simms has gained more than 1,600 yards on the ground.

Putnam’s pick: Lakeland 28-16

No. 6 Springstead (7-3) at No. 3 Wiregrass Ranch (8-2), 7:30

In past September, these teams met in a wild contest that the host Bulls won 52-45. That outcome ultimately helped Wiregrass Ranch take home a district title. Bulls quarterback Luke Knight threw for 380 yards and six touchdowns in that first matchup. Knight, a senior who has committed to Army, has thrown for a school and county record 3,349 yards to go along with 38 touchdown passes this season. The Eagles’ main offensive weapon, who rushed for 272 yards and four touchdowns against Wiregrass Ranch two months ago.

Putnam’s pick: Wiregrass Ranch 42-35

Class 3

For the full MaxPreps bracket click here.

Tonight’s Area Region Quarterfinal Matchups
Region 2

No. 8 River Ridge (4-6) at No. 1 Ocala Vanguard (8-2), 7:30

The Royal Knights, under first-year coach Fred Reid, overcame a 1-3 start to win the district title. In three of its four wins, River Ridge help opponents to under 20 points. Vanguard, the top seed, has been dominant the last half of the regular season. After all, the Knights have opponents by a combined 199-0 in their last four wins.

Putnam’s pick: Vanguard 34-6

No. 5 Cypress Creek (9-1) at No. 4 Zephyrhills (7-3), 7:30

A rematch from one of the most memorable games in Pasco County this season. The host Bulldogs won that first meeting 63-35. Trailing 28-21 at halftime, Zephyrhills outscored the Coyotes 42-7 in the second half to clinch the district title. That ended up being the only loss in the regular season for Cypress Creek. Expect another shootout considering the ability of each offense to rack up yards and pile up points.

Putnam’s pick: Zephyrhills 49-45

No. 7 Gulf (5-5) at No. 2 Lake Wales (10-0), 7:30

After battling through injuries, the Buccaneers have found some consistency, winning to two of their last three games to clinch an at-large berth. The offense, led by running back Antonio Muniz, has been impressive, scoring a combined 177 points in the last four games. Stil, that might not be enough against the defending state champion Highlanders, who have allowed 37 points all season.

Putnam’s pick: Lake Highland 31-7

Class 2

For the full MaxPreps bracket click here.

Tonight’s Area Region Quarterfinal Matchups
Region 3

No. 5 Dunnellon (7-3) at No. 4 Hudson (9-1), 7:30

The Cobras, who are averaging 42 points per game, are enjoying one of the seasons in school history. Five of their wins have been by 48 or more points. But only two of Hudson’s wins have come against teams with winning records. Tonight will be one of the biggest tests. The Tigers are coming off a 40-6 win over Zephyrhills in the regular season finale.

Putnam’s pick: Dunnellon 28-26

No. 7 Nature Coast (8-2) at No. 2 South Sumter (9-1), 7:30

First-year Sharks coach Rob Kazmier has guided his team to six straight wins heading into the playoffs, including a 72-59 victory over Gulf in the regular season finale. Nature Coast running back Christian Cromer, a Navy recruit, has a knack for finding the end zone with 30 rushing touchdowns this season. This matchup could end up being a shootout. After all, the Raiders beat Mitchell and Zephyrhills in a pair of high-scoring games.

Putnam’s pick: South Sumter 35-34