PALM HARBOR — Week 5 is usually a little early to be calling games must-win, but that’s probably the case Friday night at St. Petersburg High for Palm Harbor University.
For starters, the Hurricanes are in a small, four-team district. Only three league games all year leaves little room for error.
But adding an extra element of pressure to the situation is the number of available postseason berths that exist.
Class 8A District 7 is no different than any other in that the top two teams move on to the tournament. The problem for PHU is that it’s widely believed that Bradenton Manatee is going to run away with the league title, leaving a three-horse race for second place.
While it’s often unwise to make such bold predictions this far in advance, the nationally ranked Manatee program is simply at a different level than that of PHU, St. Petersburg and Sarasota Riverview.
So back to Friday night’s imperativeness.
Winning the road test against St. Pete doesn’t guarantee anything, but it would allow PHU to control its own destiny.
Two weeks after St. Pete would come the opportunity to clinch against Riverview at home.
At this juncture, though, both games look like potential battles.
The fight for second place appeared to be between PHU and St. Pete entering the season, but Riverview is 2-1, with its only loss coming against Class 7A state-ranked Venice High.
The ‘Canes handled both teams with ease in head-to-head matchups last season, beating St. Pete 27-6 and Riverview 35-9.
But with a rash of offseason departures and a small roster, this is not that team from a year ago.
What PHU does still have is quarterback Tyler Kaminski. The ‘Canes go as the all-everything senior goes and his dual-threat ability has PHU sitting at 3-1 heading into Friday.
Also 3-1 is St. Pete – a team averaging 30 points per game. The Green Devils, led by running back Deangelo Reaves, are putting up 219 yards on the ground each night.
Reaves and the other St. Pete backs will get their yards, but keeping the 8 yard gains from turning into 48 yard gashes will be an important key for the PHU defense if the ‘Canes hope to head back north with win No. 4 and strengthened playoff hopes.
(This is The Suncoast News Game of the Week. Go to www.SuncoastNews.com for an in-depth recap, quotes and photos.)