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Preps

So far this season: struggles, surprises

Competition heats up with tonight's high school football games.

By ROD GIPSON
Published September 19, 2003

The prep football season is three weeks old. The squads have each played twice, and tonight things begin to heat up with district play. So what have we learned so far?

That Alonso may be a pretty good team but still needs to prove itself. Leto can actually win a game. Jefferson is good as always. Chamberlain and Wharton are not, and the list of middle-of-the-road teams continues to stretch.

In the early surprise of the season, Alonso has won its first two games, doing so by a 62-7 margin. Running back John Forbes has been phenomenal, rushing for 446 yards and five touchdowns the first two weeks of the year. The Ravens, who had only won three total games in the program's three-year history, will get a test of their talents tonight against a tough Middleton team.

And while Leto and Jefferson are at different ends of the spectrum, both celebrated wins last week. Jefferson's was its second of the young season and 15th in its last 17 games. Leto's was its first since November of 2001.

Meanwhile, Chamberlain and Wharton, playoff teams a season ago, both find themselves struggling as district competition kicks off. Wharton is 1-1 and coming off a stinging 20-point loss to Brandon, while the Chiefs are in the unfamiliar depths of 0-2.

So that leaves two north Hillsborough County teams perfect at 2-0, two others at 0-2 and four squads at 1-1. Those numbers will change tonight as Sickles plays at Chamberlain, Freedom hosts Tampa Bay Tech, Gaither hosts King, Leto is at Plant, Wharton hosts Hillsborough and, in the lone nondistrict matchup, Jefferson is at Brandon. All kickoffs are at 7:30 p.m.

Middleton (1-1) at Alonso (2-0)

LAST WEEK: Middleton lost to Hillsborough 28-16; Alonso defeated Gaither 31-7.

LAST YEAR: Didn't play.

THE SKINNY: Middleton's offense is led by speedy quarterback Stoney Woodson and burner wideout O.J. Murdock. Alonso has surprised with twin blowout wins and has a weapon in running back John Forbes.

THE EDGE: Alonso coach Mike Heldt says his team is only getting better and can prove it tonight in this Class 4A, District 10 game. Middleton, however, will have other plans and will win in a squeaker.

Sickles (1-1) at Chamberlain (0-2)

LAST WEEK: Sickles lost to Robinson 34-0; Chamberlain lost to Jefferson 22-9.

LAST YEAR: Chamberlain beat Sickles 24-0.

THE SKINNY: The Gryphons looked awful in their shutout loss last week, but Chamberlain wasn't much better.

THE EDGE: Things will begin to brighten up for the Chiefs tonight. Chamberlain wins big in this Class 5A, District 8 contest.

Tampa Bay Tech (1-1) at Freedom (0-2)

LAST WEEK: Tech lost to Armwood 42-0; Freedom lost to Bloomingdale 34-13.

LAST YEAR: Didn't play.

THE SKINNY: Tech could do little right against Armwood but it was facing Hillsborough County's best team. Freedom watched a shot at a win quickly slip away vs. Bloomingdale.

THE EDGE: These two are toward the bottom of Class 3A, District 10, but Tech will pound the ball and get back on track tonight.

King (1-1) at Gaither (1-1)

LAST WEEK: King lost to Riverview 51-6; Gaither lost to Alonso 31-7.

LAST YEAR: King defeated Gaither 42-19.

THE SKINNY: King isn't quite as bad as the 45-point loss it suffered last week. Gaither, meanwhile, comes into this Class 5A, District 8 game hoping to avoid another blowout.

THE EDGE: With two teams trying to improve, King takes the first step toward that.

Jefferson (2-0) at Brandon (2-0)

LAST WEEK: Jefferson beat Chamberlain 22-9; Brandon beat Wharton 27-7.

LAST YEAR: Jefferson beat Brandon 50-37.

THE SKINNY: Both teams are coming off wins against quality opponents. Brandon has a great running attack, but Jefferson is just the defense to slow it down. Plus, the Dragons can run the ball themselves.

THE EDGE: If Brandon is for real, it'll have to convince Jefferson. The Dragons stay unbeaten.

Leto (1-1) at Plant (0-2)

LAST WEEK: Leto defeated Newsome 28-26; Plant lost to East Bay 60-7.

LAST YEAR: Didn't play.

THE SKINNY: Leto's losing streak is over after 11 games. Plant is only faring slightly better after a thumping by the Indians last week.

THE EDGE: The Falcons' losing streak may have ended, but another one is about to start. The Panthers should take this Class 4A, District 10 game.

Hillsborough (1-1) at Wharton (1-1)

LAST WEEK: Hillsborough beat Middleton 28-16; Wharton lost to Brandon 27-7.

LAST YEAR: Wharton beat Hillsborough 21-0.

THE SKINNY: The Wildcats are in need of a win after the physical loss to Brandon last week. Hillsborough is beginning to show signs of hitting its stride heading into this Class 5A, District 8 rivalry game.

THE EDGE: Hillsborough has a dominant running game and hasn't quite forgotten last year's district loss against Wharton. Hillsborough will earn the win.

[Last modified September 18, 2003, 10:36:32]

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