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Friday Night Previews: North Pinellas

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Published:   |   Updated: October 17, 2013 at 06:59 PM

  • East Lake High (6-0, 2-0) at Countryside High (5-1, 2-0)

LAST MEETING: Sept. 7, 2012 at C-Side – Cougars 27, Eagles 14

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

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

The winner of this North Pinellas rivalry will have a leg up in the race to the top of the Class 7A District 9 standings.

The last time East Lake took out Countryside on the field of play, this year’s seniors weren’t even teenagers yet. The Cougars represent a hurdle East Lake continues to stumble over, but there are no excuses this season.

With a superior roster and level of big-game experience, the Eagles need to handle their business Friday night at Countryside. No one on the opposite sideline will allow that to be easy, though. Coach Jared Davis has his Cougars consistently improving from week to week and this will be the team’s first real test since Week 3’s 27-0 home loss against Palmetto.

If Countryside wants to pull the upset and stretch its winning streak to four, a big-time performance from its base defensive front will be key. The Eagles’ offense is too good, especially in local competition, to focus too much on either the run or the pass.

Stacking the box to slow down RBs Weston Fordham, Drew Cuoto and Artavis Scott is not an option when D-I athletes like Scott and George Campbell are both available in the passing game. But pull extra guys out of the box so as to not get beat by Scott and Campbell, and coach Bob Hudson will batter your defense with his running game until you make an effort to stop it.

Defenses should almost never go into games thinking about completely shutting down both Scott and Campbell. They’re going to make a few plays throughout a 48-minute game, so just hope it doesn’t start to look like a 7-on-7 drill.

Davis and Countryside typically run a balanced attack when they have possession and keeping that up would be helpful on Friday. If East Lake makes you one-dimensional, you will not win. It’s one thing to enter a game wanting to run and then you do so on 80-90 percent of your snaps. It’s another to be forced into either running or passing because the defense is dictating each series’ flow.

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

LAST MEETING: Oct. 5, 2012 at Riverview – Hurricanes 35, Rams 9

This is it for PHU.

Although the Hurricanes’ loss two weeks ago at St. Petersburg dramatically increased the slope of their uphill climb to the playoffs, a loss on Friday to Sarasota Riverview dashes all postseason hopes.

PHU and the visiting Rams have been district foes for three years now, with the ‘Canes owning both games in the brief series and outscoring Riverview 62-16.

Simply based on the Rams’ 3-2 record and their scores from this season, Riverview appears to, at the very least, present an improved challenge compared to years past. Taking highly touted Venice High to the wire in a 14-13 loss during Week 2 is enough to prove they can play respectable football.

For what it’s worth, the Rams’ hometown newspaper, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, is picking PHU to win 27-21. Reporter Solange Reyner notes in the preview that Rams running back Karan Higdon “tweaked his ankle” in last week’s 28-21 win over Bradenton Southeast.

The strangest thing about Friday night’s contest is that PHU kind of has to hope Sarasota looks good while they beat them. The ‘Canes need Riverview to go and beat St. Pete on Nov. 1 to have any realistic shot at a third-straight trip to the postseason. A win on Friday and Riverview taking care of St. Pete would require a three-team playoff to determine the Class 8A District 7 second seed.

Throwing a wrench in that scenario coming to fore would be either St. Pete or PHU beating the league’s heavyweight, Bradenton Manatee.

Such a wrench doesn’t exist, though, so don’t waste time counting on it.

Dunedin High (1-6, 0-2) at Lakewood High (5-2, 3-0)

LAST MEETING: Sept. 21, 2012 at Dunedin – Spartans 51, Falcons 6

Lakewood pounded Dunedin 40-11 in 2011 and 51-6 last year.

Neither team is as good as they were the last two seasons, but Lakewood has been a playoff-caliber squad with legit aspirations for making trips to the state finals. Dunedin simply was working on getting back above .500 after a few years of futility.

The host Spartans are the favorite to win the Class 5A District 8 title and won’t have trouble dispatching the Falcons on Friday night.

A knock on Lakewood this year, though, has been its tendency to play to the level of its competition. A solid goal for Dunedin would be to try to match what Gibbs was able to do against Lakewood during the Gladiators’ 24-14 loss last month: Keep it respectable and don’t get blown out.

[OFF: Tarpon Springs]

ehorchy@suncoastnews.com (727) 815-1071

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