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District breakdown: Pinellas

By Times Staff Writer
Published September 16, 2005


CLASS 5A, DISTRICT 10

TEAMS: Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Largo, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg, Seminole.

GAME TO WATCH: Largo at Dixie Hollins (tonight). These are the only undefeated teams left in the district. Classic matchup of bread-and-butter back (Dexter McCluster of Largo) facing stingy defense (Dixie has allowed 23 points).

PLAYER TO WATCH: McCluster, the county's second-leading rusher with 509 yards, has the vision and speed to find the smallest sliver of daylight. He cut his left elbow in practice this week but will not miss any playing time.

FAVORITE: While the Packers and Gladiators have grabbed most of the headlines, the Rebels have quitely put together a county-best 10-game regular-season win streak dating to 2004.

DARK HORSE: The Warhawks lost five games last season by seven points or fewer and finished 4-6, their first losing season since 1996 and the first time they failed to make the playoffs since 1998. So far, the close games have gone Seminole's way, making it a legitimate contender again.

CLASS 5A, DISTRICT 9

TEAMS: Clearwater, Countryside, Dunedin, East Lake, Palm Harbor University.

GAME TO WATCH: East Lake at Countryside (Oct. 28). The Eagles have had a knack for getting into the playoffs (five straight seasons and counting) and usually do it in their last district game. They might not want to wait that long with the Cougars as the last game.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Watch both offensive lines, as they might be the best in the county. Both have Division I-A prospects, with Zach Hermann and Zach Mattee from East Lake and Countryside's duo of Seaver Brown and James Boyd.

FAVORITE: Countryside is clearly the most balanced, on both sides of the ball, and a big favorite to win the district. It's hard to imagine the Cougars dropping a district game in the process.

DARK HORSE: Dunedin lost eight straight games last year as the district favorite, and has equaled its 2004 win total as a dark horse. The Falcons have a solid offensive line, strong running attack and just enough talent at the skills positions to pull off a crucial district win when the time comes.

CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 9

TEAMS: Central, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Springstead, Tarpon Springs.

GAME TO WATCH: Tarpon Springs at Springstead (Sept. 30). Both teams got off to 2-0 starts before losing last week. That helped establish a pecking order in a relatively weak district.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Tarpon Springs' Montel Gamble has a penchant for producing game-changing plays with three interceptions and a forced fumble.

FAVORITE: Springstead made the playoffs as a district runnerup and lost in the region semifinals to two-time state runnerup Lake Gibson. The Eagles filled a void in their offensive backfield with the addition of Seth Metz, who transferred from Crystal River.

DARK HORSE: Central is the other 2-1 district team. The Bears' only loss came against Sarasota Booker.

CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 9

TEAMS: Bradenton Southeast, Bradenton Bayshore, Boca Ciega, Northeast, Osceola, Lakewood.

GAME TO WATCH: Boca Ciega at Bradenton Southeast (Oct. 14) When the new districts were announced, just about everyone immediately gave the title to one of the Bradenton teams. Neither the Seminoles (2-1) nor Bayshore have looked that overpowering, however; Bogie looks better than advertised.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Southeast's Terron Sanders is 6-2, 295 pounds and runs a 5.1. That's not bad for a defensive tackle, and probably disconcerting for the predominantly running-based attacks of the other district schools.

FAVORITE: Because of Sanders and running back Adrian Jenkins (301 yards) and coach Paul Maechtle (205-60 in 23 seasons), it's still Southeast.

DARK HORSE: Osceola will have to grind out wins and be sure not to fall behind, and coach George Palmer usually finds a way to do that.

CLASS 2A, DISTRICT 5

TEAMS: Fort Myers Bishop Verot, Lake Placid, Mulberry, St. Petersburg Catholic, Tampa Catholic.

GAME TO WATCH: St. Petersburg Catholic at Tampa Catholic (Sept. 30). After a few down years, the Crusaders seem to be back under the guidance of coach Bob Henriquez, who led the team to its best seasons in the 1990s. Tampa Catholic already has a win over CCC.

PLAYER TO WATCH: SPC's Jermaine McKenzie leads Pinellas County in receiving with 289 yards and is a big-play guy who will be counted on when teams figure out a way to slow down all-everything Jock Sanders. Assuming they do.

FAVORITE: The Barons have the most speed and talent in the district, but will need to put it together in the trenches and on defense. They are giving up 30 points a game and have been unable to stop the run.

DARK HORSE: Mulberry is 2-0 and has senior Freddy West running behind five seniors on the offensive line. A 21-year playoff drought could be ending.

CLASS 2B, DISTRICT 5

TEAMS: Berkeley Prep, Clearwater Central Catholic, Frostproof, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney

GAME TO WATCH: Berkeley Prep at CC Catholic (Sept. 30). It's a matchup between not only the two best teams, but the two best linemen (CCC's Kevin Young and Berkeley Prep's Jim Berrie).

PLAYER TO WATCH: CCC's Colin McCarthy showed how valuable he was last week with seven catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. He'll team with Riley Cooper to form a lethal receiving combination.

FAVORITE: The Marauders have made the playoffs nine straight seasons and have the talent to get there again. They just need to stay away from altercations on the field.

DARK HORSE: Frostproof has only made the playoffs once in the past five seasons, but the program has a strong tradition.

CLASS A, DISTRICT 6

TEAMS: Admiral Farragut, Fort Meade, Indian Rocks Christian, Northside Christian, Shorecrest.

GAME TO WATCH: Admiral Farragut at Northside Christian (Sept. 30). If the Blue Jackets get by Shorecrest tonight, they'll get a bye week before meeting the Mustangs, with the winner gaining the inside track to the district's runnerup spot.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Bernard Scott is 3-for-3 when it comes to 200-yard games, but the competition will stiffen. If Scott can keep up his pace, or something close to it, the Blue Jackets should be able to control the ball and cover some weaknesses with depth.

FAVORITE: Fort Meade is the two-time defending state champion, and while the Miners aren't as strong as in years past, they have beaten Shorecrest 37-0 and will be tough to beat in this district.

DARK HORSE: Admiral Farragut has the running game to upset some people, but is it strong enough to get past a tough defense at Northside Christian? If the answer is yes, Farragut could be playoff bound.

CLASS B, DISTRICT 6

TEAMS: Bishop McLaughlin, Calvary Christian, Cambridge, Keswick Christian, Lakeland Evangel Christian, Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic, Temple Heights.

GAME TO WATCH: Keswick Chr. at Evangel Chr. (Oct. 7). This is a matchup between the only district teams to make the playoffs last season. The winner will have home-field advantage if both meet in the region final, which is a strong possibility.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Keswick's Tony Anderson has sure hands and runs precise routes. That's why he is one of quarterback Blake Englehardt's favorite targets.

FAVORITE: Keswick Christian, ranked No. 1 in Class B, returns a ton of talent from last year's team that made the playoffs.

DARK HORSE: Forget Evangel's 0-2 record. The team, led by coach Derrick Dodge, has state title aspirations and schedules tough opponents early in the season.