Football Previews: Tarpon gets its shot

Clearwater and junior Latrez Bradley picked up a clutch win last week at Boca Ciega. Another win Friday at Largo will secure then District 6A-9 championship.

It’s been an extremely difficult period for the Tarpon Springs High football family and community with the passing of Coach George Kotis’ wife. Artemis Kotis passed away Oct. 15 after a lengthy battle against cancer. The Spongers were on a bye last Friday and they’ll return to the field to take on Lakewood for a shot at the Class 5A District 9 championship.

Tarpon Springs (5-3, 2-0) at Lakewood (3-5, 1-1)

The District 5A-9 title belonged to Gibbs. Then the Gladiators got penalized for using an ineligible player last week, meaning their 20-7 win over Tarpon Springs flipped to a Spongers victory. That means Tarpon Springs is now atop the standings at 2-0.

The Spongers will be an underdog heading to St. Petersburg and Lakewood is still a formidable opponent, but the Spartans aren’t the same clear-cut district favorite as in year’s past.

Lakewood and dual-threat quarterback Deuce Spann II are going to get themselves on their board. The Spongers have struggled to score against better opponents and will have to take advantage of every opportunity they receive.

Clearwater (6-2, 4-0) at Largo (6-2, 3-1)

Clearwater needed a second-half surge to take out Boca Ciega last week. The Tornadoes will need to dial up another big road performance against Largo if they want to capture the District 6A-9 title.

The Packers have won two in a row after getting dropped 40-14 against Boca Ciega.

Clearwater lost two of its first three games before getting back on track and stringing together five straight victories. As Tornadoes coach Don Mesick stated after last week’s win, Clearwater will be a tough team to beat if its defense keeps playing the way it has in the second half of the season. Quarterback Rent Montie and his wealth of options combine to create one of Pinellas County’s top offenses.

Clearwater surrendered two special-teams touchdowns against Bogie. Avoid those miscues and the Tornadoes should be able to lock up another championship.

Countryside (5-3, 1-2) at Pinellas Park (8-0, 3-0)

Pinellas Park is steamrolling its way toward an undefeated regular season and has already secured the District 7A-10 crown.

Countryside had a chance to challenge the Patriots for the title before falling 14-0 against St. Pete two weeks ago.

The Cougars are on the outside looking in when it comes to playoff qualification, but a win against unbeaten Pinellas Park will provide a big boost leading up to next week’s season-ender against Northeast.

The Patriots average more than 300 yards a game on the ground and junior quarterback Brandon Coppola can drop back and make things happen, too. That production allows Pinellas Park to average 47.9 points a night. Countryside likely needs to find a way to slash that scoring average in half to hang Friday.

Seminole (1-7, 0-3) at East Lake (4-4, 2-1)

East Lake boosted its playoff hopes in a big way last week by getting out of St. Pete with a 20-17 overtime win.

Assuming the Eagles take care of business Friday against Seminole, next week’s clash at Clearwater may be the difference between making the postseason or staying home after Week 11.

Palm Harbor University (2-6, 1-4) at Steinbrenner (4-5, 3-2)

PHU dropped its fourth straight last week against Newsome. While this year’s been a bit of struggle in terms of wins and losses, the Hurricanes and first-year coach Mike Mullaney are building for the future.

A benefit of playing in the competitive District 8A-6 is seeing how the team performs and reacts against talents opponents. PHU may not stack up well against Steinbrenner, but the Hurricanes aren’t completely overmatched.

Gibbs (1-8, 1-1) at Dunedin (0-8, 0-2)

A win over Dunedin will improve Gibbs to 2-1 in the District 5A-9 standings but that might not be enough to win the league and reach the postseason despite last week’s penalties and forfeitures.

If Tarpon Springs beats Lakewood, then the league belongs to the Spongers and Gibbs will be out. If Lakewood wins, it sets up a three-way tie. Rather than playing out those situations on the field, the FHSAA defers to playoff power ranking points. That situation would likely favor Lakewood and Tarpon Springs over Gibbs.