Hillsborough: Sunday morning quarterback

By JOE SMITH and KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writers
Published September 30, 2007

Spoto shined Friday night in its big upset of previously unbeaten Tampa Bay Tech. But the Spartans also revealed the week's theme - defensive playmakers stealing the show.

What we learned

Armwood's defense its best of all time?

The Hawks (5-0) have given up 70 yards per game in their last four. In each of those games, they had to play without several key starters. Now, the 2003 state title team (five shutouts) and 2004 state title team (four shutouts) may have something to say about this, but the Hawks' depth this year is tough to top.

Newsome's, Sickles' record starts are extra 'special'

The Gryphons and Wolves, both 4-1 for the first time, owe a lot to their special teams. Sickles blocked two more punts in Friday's win (returning one for a TD) and boast arguably the county's top punter (senior Corey Page averages 44 yards); Newsome has one of the area's top kickers in Vinny Zaccario.

Who's hot?

Alonso's defense: In five games, the Ravens have given up 39 points.

Brandon RBs: Marquel Gilmore and Samir Baker. The duo combined for seven touchdowns and 318 yards on 29 carries.

Jairus Jones: The Wharton senior DB/RB scored the Wildcats' two touchdowns, and converted the winning two-point conversion.

Who's not? 

Berkeley Prep's offense: The Bucs committed seven turnovers in Friday's loss.

Cambridge: Once 2-0, the Lancers have lost three straight - during which they've scored a total of 17 points.

Five games to watch

Armwood (5-0) at Tampa Bay Tech (4-1): Can TBT rebound after Friday's devastating loss?

Newsome (4-1) at Brandon (3-2): The Wolves' defense is among the county's best; ditto for Brandon's offense.

Wharton (3-2) at Wesley Chapel (3-2): The district opener for both Wildcats should be a difficult test.

Chamberlain (3-2) at Sickles (4-1): The Gryphons are off to the best start in school history.

Gaither (3-2) at Mitchell (2-2): The red-hot Cowboys have won three straight.

Gamebreakers Defensive stoppers

Jamel Middleton
Spoto, Sr., DB
He returned a fumble 94 yards for a score - and returned a punt for another TD.

Robert Charies
Chamberlain, Sr., LB
He racked up 41/2 sacks to spark the Chiefs' second straight shutout

Gorby Loreus
Jefferson, Sr., LB
Loreus was a beast Friday night against Armwood, tallying 20-plus tackles for the second straight game; the Dragons' newfound swagger on defense is one reason why they're not declaring doomsday despite a 1-3 record.