Thursday Night Previews: North Pinellas

Tampa Catholic High (1-1) at Tarpon Springs High (2-0)
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Tarpon Springs gets its biggest test of the young season when one of the state's top Class 3A teams, Tampa Catholic, comes to town Thursday night.
The Spongers enter their home opener with confidence after last week's 21-17 win at Osceola improved their record to 2-0. With all due respect to Osceola and Week 1 opponent Clearwater, though, Tampa Catholic presents a much larger challenge.
Senior QB Kyle Ploucher is a Division I prospect and the Crusaders coaching staff is not shy about letting him air it out. TE Tre Watson and WRs Isaiah Osby and Justin Motlow have been his favorite targets through two games and will test the Spongers secondary and linebacking corps.
The fact that Tarpon Springs is run-heavy on offense is no secret, but there's no need to change until somebody can stop it. The Spongers will certainly need Michael Ford and Co. to be at the top of its game Thursday to stick with the Crusaders.
Ford blasted through Osceola last week for 262 yards and two touchdowns and is averaging 9.59 yards per carry on the year.
Senior Spongers QB Jarrett Battyanyi is also a threat to tuck it and run, but can be dangerous with his arm – especially if WR/RB Montel Johnson is the target and has room to run.
Tarpon Springs boasts plenty of athleticism and ability all over its defense and while Ploucher is talented, the Crusaders offense has appeared one dimensional. According to, Tampa Catholic has gained just 115 yards rushing on 53 carries, or a 2.15-yard average.
Although the Spongers will likely go into this one as an underdog, the team's first 3-0 start since 2008 is not out of the question.
Palmetto High (0-2) at Countryside High (2-0)
No one seemed to quite know what to think of Countryside heading into the 2013 season. Losing nearly your entire starting roster to graduation will do that.
But after two weeks, the Cougars have let it be known they aren't ready to go anywhere. Week 1's 15-13 win over Lakewood announced that loud and clear.
Though this may not be the type of team that was running off 27 consecutive regular-season victories, still knows how to win games.
As for Thursday night, don't be fooled by Palmetto's winless record. The Tigers are off to a hard-luck 0-2 start, but those losses came to Venice and Lakewood.
C-Side QB Robby Hicks turned in a quality performance during last week's 16-6 win at Bradenton Southeast, going 14 of 20 for 171 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Hicks' continued progression will help allow coach Jared Davis to stay relatively balanced as his pair of junior RBs – Dante Satcher and Eric Campbell – also find their footing.
Dunedin High (1-1) at East Lake High (2-0)
LAST MEETING: Nov. 5, 2010 at East Lake – Eagles 35 Falcons 7
This North Pinellas rivalry gets rebooted Thursday night after taking a two-year hiatus.
East Lake is coming off an impressive 22-0 victory at Largo and hasn't surrendered a single point this season. A third straight shutout may be in the offing, and you can bet the Eagles' defensive coaching staff is letting its players know about it.
Dunedin remains in a rebuilding process under new coach Denis Gillen. The Falcons won in overtime against Dixie Hollins to open the season, but dropped a 30-0 decision to Seminole last week.
Breaking some big plays, creating turnovers and taking advantage of any opportunity East Lake provides will be necessary for Dunedin to compete in this one.
Eagles coach Bob Hudson runs his offense based on what the opposing defense shows: focus on the edges to double-team playmaking receivers and he'll run all night, load the box and he'll take shots over the top.
If East Lake can stake itself out to a comfortable lead, though, look for QB Jake Hudson and the Eagles' passing attack to get some live work in.
Palm Harbor University High (1-1) at Clearwater High (0-2)
LAST MEETING: Aug. 31, 2012 at PHU – Hurricanes 42 Tornadoes 0
PHU bounced back from its opening-week, 49-0 dud against East Lake with a 28-12 win over Boca Ciega. The Hurricanes go on the road for the first time Thursday when they travel to Clearwater.
The 'Canes have two more games and a bye week to prepare for the biggest game of its season: a Week 6 showdown with St. Petersburg. That game may very well decide who gets Class 8A District 7's second playoff berth, assuming national-power Manatee runs away with the title.
Clearwater, under first-year coach and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Donnie Abraham, is an inexperienced team without much punch at the moment. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, PHU should be able to have their way with the young Tornadoes.
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