Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Week 9 - separation

When I ran track, my coach would always talk about 'separation'. He told me that - as a distance runner, I had to keep the pace for three laps - then turn it on.

The separation would either demoralize the rest of the runners or force them to use more energy to catch me.

Now - that was a long time ago and about 150 pounds ago as well... but.

The same is true in this week's key district matchups.

Two jump out as 'must see' games...

The first, well, it's Venice and Manatee. After starting the season with an ugly loss to Oscar Smith on ESPN U, Venice has run roughshod through their schedule to get to this game at 7-1. Manatee has been struggling offensively and needs to put together a complete game to keep Trey Burton off the field. Burton is a three-year starter that's already verbally committed to Florida.

Manatee has struggled the last two weeks to put teams away, but has the offensive firepower to stay with Venice. This can't be a run-and-shoot game, because Venice thrives on short drives and quick scores.

The Indians' main weakness is its defense. A big lead against Charlotte two weeks ago almost disappeared in the late goings.

Another key district showdown is Bolles and Episcopal. Yes - that's right - Episcopal. The Eagles are quietly climbing into the playoff race and Bolles proved last week that they are just as human as the rest of us. Bolles lost a key player to injury (Brent Benedict) and faced a West Nassau team that was inspired and played toe-to-toe with the 'Dogs.

But that was last week. This week the 'Dogs return to Skinner Barco Stadium and face the Eagles, who had last week off. Look for Bolles to score early and often and try to put this game away. If not, Episcopal can stay with the 'Dogs and force Bolles to get physical.

By the way, Bolles will play Cocoa, the defending 3A champ (now 2A) Nov. 13. Too bad the Dogs dropped to 2B or this could be a state championship preview.

Cowboys looking for respect

Madison County is still stinging from their loss to Godby and defensively, they've shown that they can shut down just about anyone. Madison beat Rickards 21-0 last week to clinch at least a tie for a playoff berth and now hope the Raiders can stun Godby and force a three-way shootout. Otherwise, Madison's 10 year district championship streak is apparently over.

Air Dreadnaughts

Lakeland showed everyone that they're still one of the odds-on favorites in 5A north Friday, pounding Osceola into submission. Lakeland threw the ball at will on the Kowboys, which featured a defense that shut down Dr. Phillips and its passing game, but couldn't contain the one-two punch of the Dreadnaughts. The first two plays from scrimmage for Lakeland were a 70 yard bomb to McRoy and then a 55 yard bomb to Brewster.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Here we go with the stretch run

We enter week 8 and very few things have changed.

St. Thomas Aquinas is still on top.

Everyone else seems to be chasing.

This week we've got some key matchups around the state that will go a long way towards determining who advances in the 2009 FHSAA playoffs.

First and foremost is our spotlight game - Kissimmee Osceola at Lakeland. The winner of this game has advanced to the State title game in 5A five years in a row - yep - five years in a row.

Osceola has played a killer schedule, including 6A powers Dr. Phillips and Mainland. Lakeland is - well, Lakeland. The 'Naughts have not dominated as years past, but did go to California and beat De LaSalle in overtime.

Thomas Bryant Stadium will be rocking as this one gets underway.

Some notes from last week:

Columbus still searches for a cure of the Bulls blues... The Explorers fell down 15-0 before a late rally closed the game to 15-13 and a failed two-point try would have tied it up. Credit Northwestern with coming out of the gauntlet with a 2-1 record.

Booker T. Washington survived their closest scare, defeating North Miami Beach 10-8.

Naples fell to Lely for the first time in a while, 12-6 and what's going on at Immokalee. The Indians haven't won since beating Naples.

Venice showed the world that they're peaking at just the right time and if Manatee doesn't get its offensive issues solved, Venice could take the district.

Sad news out of Connecticut as former Florida high school star Jasper Howard was stabbed to death after a UCONN game. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Just when you thought it was over, the Madison County Cowboys showed Lincoln that playing at Boot Hill still matters. Madco jumped out to a 31-7 lead over the Trojans and coasted to a 38-20 win one week after Godby stunned the 'Boys 21-14. Madison's district streak of 11 is in jeapordy after that loss.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back at it - sorry for the week off

OK - so I took a week off from the blogs... call it a 'fall break'

As an FSU fan, I'm in need of a break - literally.

Made my first trip to Crawfordville, FL in over 40 years. I last went to Wakulla Springs when I was but six years old. Bobby Bowden was still an assistant at Florida State then. Very nice atmosphere and great hospitality from the folks at Wakulla High School.

One thing I did notice is that Wakulla played two classes up. Yep - that's two classes up. They were originally supposed to be in 2A with Godby and Madison, and instead, moved up to 4A. The War Eagles are young and will be a force to reckon with in two years.

Lincoln, on the other hand, looks like they've put it together. After losing two key players early in the season, and their coach briefly, the Trojans are starting to get it offensively and should make a jaunt to the post-season. The Lincoln/Leon game is going to be one for the ages.

How about Godby's big win against Madison County. The Cowboys fell down 21-0 before a ferocious rally in the 4th and Godby had to hold on for dear life. This could be the first time since 1996 that Madison doesn't win the district - which is virtually unheard of - and I think - breaks a string of 12 straight titles...

Northwestern bounced back from a loss to Booker T. Washington and dropped the Central Rockets 22-14 in a game that could have been played May 1 (flag day). ESPN televised the game and wow - I think the refs had more tv time than the stars.

Speaking of Booker T - is anyone going to challenge the Tornados now that they've defeated Northwestern? Ah yes, there's that date with Miami Central on November 14.

My friend Larry Lastarza has it going on with his LAZ index. He's picking 80 percent - with a point spread to boot.

Manatee has averaged - yes, averaged - 36 points per game. Only Southeast has held the Hurricanes below 35 points. Don't forget we'll be at Hawkins Stadium for the Venice/Manatee game October 30. Speaking of Venice, the Indians have ripped off five wins in a row since losing to Nationally-ranked Oscar Smith (VA). Venice is averaging 36 points per game - so defenses will be tested. The Indians face off with Charlotte this week, another offensive juggernaut.

This year's Beef 'O' Brady's Top 25 has been consistent. The St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders are the #1 team and everyone else is a distant #2 or better. I don't know who the #2 team is. It's a crap shoot between Glades Central, Lakeland, Manatee, Booker T. and Niceville.

Speaking of Niceville, the Eagles have legitimately the biggest beef of the them all in the rankings. They play a killer schedule (Lincoln, Godby, Pine Forest, Pace) and yet, get very little state-wide love.

Ok - I'm done for today - but we'll try to give you more later.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Talk, as they say - is cheap.

It's time to put up or shut up. St. Thomas Aquinas and Byrnes... it's finally here.

And I'm going to miss it.

Yep, I'm one of the few state-wide (and nation-wide) media members who will NOT be in attendance at Lockhart Stadium tomorrow.


I have a previous commitment.

I'll be at Armwood/Plant. I picked this game a long time ago and the folks at Armwood and Plant have always treated me to a great show - so I'm sticking with the original plan.

But I'll be watching.

An 8 PM kickoff allows me to watch the game at the Beefs in Seffner while doing the show (an ADD person's nightmare) but if I could manage the Lakeland/De LaSalle game last week - I can manage this one.

There are other 'big' games this week.

One is Saturday night at Traz Powell - as the Bulls of Northwestern take on Washington's Tornado attack.

My friend Larry Lastarza (LAZ Index) picks Washington to upset the Bulls.

Not going to happen Larry.

Northwestern has a date Thursday with Central - in what could go a long way to deciding who's going to represent 6A South this year. I'm not saying there aren't other teams out there - but Central and Northwestern are head and shoulders better than anyone else in districts 9-16.

Lincoln goes to Pine Forest - that's another big game for the Trojans. You saw former Lincoln standout quarterback BJ Daniels do to Florida State what he did to several teams throughout his prep career - make people miss.

Other games to watch include Madison County taking on Columbia in a battle of unbeatens. Craig Howard has 'righted' the Tigers' ship after a dismal 4-6 campaign last year and has a 3-0-1 record. Madison is young, but still - well - it's the Cowboys.

This year's battle for the Bone (Seminole and Deland) features a great matchup. Deland's offense vs. Seminole's defense.

Several big games, but the tv cameras will be on Lockhart for a few hours... if you're interested in going to the game - visit the St. Thomas Aquinas website for ticket information.