After a week of non-district games, we return Friday for Week 8 to a slate of games that almost all have playoff implications.
Freedom (1-4) at Osceola (5-1): After a thorough dismantling of a good St. Cloud team, 43-0, last week on both sides of the ball, the Kowboys shift back into district play; their last district loss was in 2010. To Lakeland. And the Patriots are no Lakeland. Look to see if the OHS defense, which is young in some spots after replacing quality seniors last year, can post its third straight shutout.
St. Cloud (5-1) at Melbourne (6-1): Can the Bulldogs get up off the canvas after the loss last week? They have to if they want to have a shot at winning winning this “Bulldogs versus Bulldogs District 7A-5 clash, County foes Harmony and Tohopekaliga have seen enough of Melbourne quarterback Justin Popovich and 1,000-yard rusher (yeah, already) Antonio Wright. But, if STC QB Garhett King can take care of the football and distribute it to his weapons, the local ‘Dogs can get the big district win. Plus, Melbourne beat Toho, 32-27, and St. Cloud beat Toho, 12-0, so if you believe in the transitive property…
In an “Eagles vs. Eagles” game, this one’s big for George Jenkins, who’s never made the playoffs. They get district leader Winter Haven next week, so will they overlook Poinciana Friday and get surprised? Can Carpenter and company throw it around enough to outscore them?
Tohopekaliga (3-3) at Viera (4-2): The Tigers, fresh off a 28-14 win over Liberty, face their toughest test of the year in the Hawks, a perennial playoff contender of late who is averaging over 200 yards rushing and 150 passing per game. If THS QB Tyler Wesley can get the ball to playmakers Blake McCullough, DeMario Tolan, Sir Giles and Kareem Dinzey, the Tigers can make a real mess of the 7A-5 standings that would bring St. Cloud and Melbourne into play.
Liberty (0-6) at Bartow (3-3): The Chargers have been getting closer and closer to that first win, having been in every game but one in the fourth quarter. They travel to the Yellow Jackets, who last year were where Liberty is this year.
Gateway (0-6) at Lake Gibson (6-0): Another team headed to Polk County for a district game (6A-8), the Panthers were tied in the second half last week against Boone before the Braves’ grinding offense wore them down in a 49-35 Homecoming game. The task is tougher, as the Braves are ranked No. 4 overall in the RPI ratings that came out this week.