TARPON SPRINGS — Last week was for knocking the rust off, tuning up and making final evaluations.
Preseason high school football essentially provides coaching staffs a one-game opportunity to focus on the micro and the ability to shrug off the overall results.
That all changes Friday night.
Now it's all about the macro. Or in the immortal words of late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, “Just win, baby.”
High school programs throughout the state have 10 games over 11 weeks to prove they're worthy of grabbing one of two coveted postseason berths allotted to each district.
Sure, the results from Friday night will represent just one-tenth of each team's total games, but first impressions can go a long way. A little jolt of early season momentum to rosters filled with 14- to 18-year-olds can help provide the spark that ignites a memorable run.
Suncoast News Game of the Week
Clearwater (District 7A-9) @ Tarpon Springs (5A-8)
Two North Pinellas programs looking to rev things up right away square off in this week's featured matchup on www.suncoastnews.com: Clearwater and Tarpon Springs.
The Spongers and Coach Ron Hawn have big plans for 2014 and those were bolstered by last Friday's 48-10 waxing of nearby rival Anclote.
Running back Michael Ford looked like the Player of the Year candidate he hopes to be, gashing the Sharks for 156 yards and two scores, while newcomer Daniel Davis found the end zone three times. Davis accounted for 136 of quarterback Brandon Casler's 238 passing yards and also ran in a 90-yard kickoff return.
Not to be overshadowed, the Spongers defense looked equally impressive last week. Tarpon dominated the overmatched Sharks and limited Anclote's offense to just three points. The lone touchdown came via a kickoff return.
Spirits are undoubtedly high leading into Friday's season opener at home, but the Spongers may not be hosting a complete pushover.
Slogging through a multi-year rebuild, Clearwater looks to be on the cusp of turning a corner. The Tornadoes came within a late touchdown of beating Hillsborough High. While it's difficult to take too much away from preseason results, this is a Clearwater squad that went 0-10 last year and lost its opening game 58-0 to Tarpon Springs.
Other North County Contests
Palm Harbor University (8A-7) @ East Lake (7A-9)
These former district rivals know each other well, both on and off the field.
East Lake is coming off a Class 7A state semifinal appearance and could be poised to take another crack at the field of contenders.
The Eagles lost their Kickoff Classic to Bradenton Manatee for the second year in a row, but the team stacked up well against one of the state's premiere programs.
PHU has a new coach and plenty of new players – including quarterback and East Lake transfer Brandon Swift — but showed promise in last Thursday's 40-20 beating of Jesuit High.
The Eagles thrashed PHU 49-0 in Week 1 last year.
Dixie Hollins (6A-7) @ Dunedin (5A-8)
This game may fly slightly under the radar compared to others in the county, but these two teams have put on high-scoring shows when they've locked up.
The past two contests — both won by Dunedin — needed overtime to determine the victor, including last year's 42-41 Falcons triumph.
Dunedin's new coach, Matt LePain, has a limited number of participants this year, but there's some serious talent to build around. The names Andrew Gordon, Kane Taylor and Jordan Williams are worth remembering.
Countryside (7A-9) @ Lakewood (5A-8)
Countryside opened its 2013 campaign with a 15-13 upset win over Lakewood. It proved to be the beginning of a roller-coaster year that ended with a 6-4 record and no postseason.
The Cougars are now being led by former offensive coordinator Eric Schmitz and face a tough early test at Lakewood.
The Gladiators were a game away from the Class 5A state finals last year and spent the first half of the season proving that its loss to Countryside was an anomaly. The revenge factor will be significant in this one Friday night.
Cougars junior quarterback Trent Chmelik takes over under center after splitting time last year with senior Robby Hicks and has been impressing throughout offseason workouts.
Chmelik will get plenty of help carrying the offense from running backs Dante Satcher and Mekhi Reynolds and receivers Sylvester Kimborough, Chris Ryan and Givanni Gonzalez.