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Friday Night Previews: North Pinellas

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Countryside High (4-1, 2-0) at Tarpon Springs High (4-2, 2-0)

LAST MEETING: Aug. 7, 2010 at C-Side – Cougars 17, Spongers 10

*** Suncoast News Game of the Week ***

*** Full coverage and photos after the game at www.SuncoastNews.com ***

Although there are no district ramifications involved in this game, it’s interesting because of what it may help further reveal about both teams.

The current trajectory of Tarpon Springs’ season has it heading toward a playoff bid, but questions still remain about exactly how good the Spongers can be.

The Spongers best win of the season came in Week 2 with a 21-17 victory over run-heavy Osceola (3-3). The only two teams Tarpon Springs has played with winning records – Tampa Catholic and East Lake – leveled sound beatings on the Spongers.

Countryside is not the Countryside of the past few years, but remains a quality team.

Both teams are somewhat unsettled at quarterback. The Cougars are running a two-QB system as Robby Hicks and Trent Chmelik share snaps. After starter Jarrett Battyanyi went down with an early season injury, the Spongers turned to Brandon Casler. Improved confidence and consistency will go a long way, but the junior has taken positive strides from week to week.

A common theme in both of Tarpon Springs’ losses was an inability to stop the run. Tampa Catholic (215 yards) and East Lake (250 yards) got out to early leads and used a ground-and-pound attack that the Spongers could not manage to stop.

Although C-Side likes to execute a fairly balanced attack, expect to see RBs Dante Satcher and Mekhi Reynolds early and often looking to see if they can find those soft spots, as well.

Tarpon Springs RB Michael Ford has two 100-yard games under his belt so far this season, including a 262-yard effort while almost single-handedly beating Osceola. The talented junior is averaging 21.6 touches per game, though that number’s slightly low because of an injury and a blowout victory against Clearwater.

Palm Harbor University High (3-2, 0-1) at Dunedin High (1-4, 0-1)

LAST MEETING: Oct. 29, 2010 at PHU – Falcons 27, Hurricanes 14

This is a tune-up game for Palm Harbor University.

The Hurricanes endured a crushing defeat at St. Pete last week that significantly hurt their playoff hopes, but hope is not completely lost. A win next week at home against Class 8A District 7 foe Sarasota Riverview will tie PHU back up with St. Pete after the Green Devils likely lose at home to Bradenton Manatee that same Friday. Judgment night will come Nov. 1 when St. Pete and Riverview go at it in Sarasota. A St. Pete loss then would set up a three-way tie for second place in the four-team district, opening PHU’s postseason hopes right back up.

As for this Friday, rebuilding Dunedin shouldn’t provide much of a challenge to the ‘Canes. The Falcons have been outscored 171-7 over its past four games. PHU’s highest point total came during a 38-point effort on Sept. 12 at Clearwater, another young team in the midst of transitioning with a new coaching staff.

Look for PHU to open it up and hang a nice number on the Falcons this Friday before shutting it down and making sure there are no late-game injuries before next week’s showdown with Riverview.

[OFF: East Lake]

ehorchy@suncoastnews.com

(727) 815-1071

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