Class 7A District 10 expected to be competitive when the 2018 football season began.
Three weeks into the schedule and that seems to be an understatement. Four of the league’s five teams – Countryside, East Lake, Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg – appear capable of capturing the title.
Games between these frontrunners begin playing out Friday night when Pinellas Park heads to East Lake.
Pinellas Park (3-0) at East Lake (2-1)
The district’s first head-to-head between its top four competitors is also the best game in Pinellas County.
Part of that is because Pinellas Park opened its season 3-0 by outscoring overmatched opponents 150-0. But just as important is what happened on the field between these two programs last year. The Patriots have established themselves as capable contenders over the past decade, but hanging with East Lake never really happened until 2017. The Eagles eked out a 17-16 victory in regulation after Pinellas Park decided to go for two and the win rather than kick a tying extra point and force overtime.
The Patriots’ loss later flipped to a victory when East Lake was forced to forfeit its first three games, but that doesn’t change what happened on the field. Pinellas Park still needs to prove it can beat the Eagles and its next chance comes Friday night at East Lake.
The running game powers Pinellas Park’s offense and it will be what East Lake defensive players and coaches will key in on Friday. Leading the Patriots backfield charge is Lawrence Toafili. The junior is one of the county’s best backs and is complemented by fellow junior Derek Bryant.
East Lake bounced back from Week 2’s 21-13 loss against Largo by beating handing rival Tarpon Springs a 27-2 defeat. Even though the Eagles beat Pinellas Park on the field last year, the forfeiture allowed Pinellas Park to lift the District 7A-10 championship trophy.
This isn’t a must-win for either program, but whoever comes out on top earns a leg up on the rest of the district field.
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Northeast (1-1) at Clearwater (1-2)
There might not be another postseason contender more in need of a win than Clearwater.
The Tornadoes dropped its second in a row last week when they couldn’t come back on crosstown rival Countryside, losing 23-20.
Falling to teams like C-Side and state-ranked Bradenton Braden River, especially this early in the season, doesn’t doom a season. But things need to turn around. Now.
Northeast picked up its first win this season last week, beating Gibbs 26-20. The Vikings are going to need even more to hang with and topple Clearwater. This game ended in a 30-7 Tornadoes win last year and that result could be duplicated Friday if Northeast isn’t able to contain Clearwater.
Some sloppiness resulted in four turnovers last week against Countryside. Those types of mistakes can allow any opponent to stay in games and the Tornadoes need to clean those up to take care of business properly this week.
Tarpon Springs (1-2) at Clearwater Central Catholic (3-0)
The Spongers’ four-week run off facing tough opponents continues Friday at Clearwater Central Catholic.
The Marauders may be Pinellas County’s best team right now and have won each of its first three games by 20 points or more.
While wrestling with a CCC offense averaging 37 points will be plenty daunting, Tarpon Springs hasn’t scored an offensive point in two straight games. If the line can give quarterback Adam Hardy a little time to work and create a few holes for running back Breon Fowler, the Spongers are capable of making some plays and moving the ball. That’ll be much easier said than done against CCC’s defensive front.
Riverview (1-2) at Palm Harbor University (1-2)
PHU opens District 8A-6 play at home against Riverview.
There are no easy wins on the league schedule for PHU, but Riverview offers an opportunity to get back to .500 overall. The Sharks have scored the fewest points (28) of any of the district’s seven teams, though PHU’s surrendered the second-most points (96).
Last week’s 48-13 defeat at Largo included just 23 PHU rushing yards. The Hurricanes struggled on the ground against East Lake two weeks ago before finding some room to run against an overmatched Seminole team. Finding some balance against Riverview and not falling into a big first-half hole could go a long way Friday.