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Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Cougars, Raiders Tuning Up For Key District Games

PLANT CITY - With what could end up being the most important games of the season looming next week, both Durant and Plant City have tune-ups Friday. The Cougars are assured of being on their home field and the Raiders are keeping their fingers crossed that they will be able to host Wharton. Five weeks into the regular season, it wasn't clear when the new turf at Raider Stadium would be ready for play. "The field is still not ready and I do not have a time line yet of when it will be," Plant City High Athletic Director Trent Hobbs said last week, adding that getting the Bermuda grass to grow has been a chief hindrance.
Aesthetically, the field looks playable, but how it will hold up under the wear and tear of hours of game action is the concern. If needed, the game would be played at Wharton. The planned Sept. 19 home opener turned into a road game for the Raiders because of field conditions - though they were able to defeat Riverview 12-9. A kickoff return by Brian Goodman got the Raiders in the game and the defense, as has been the case for Plant City most of the season, secured the victory. Last week, Defensive coach Brian Brubaker said there has been one positive aspect to the team having to play on the road. "They've had to overcome adversity right away," said Brubaker, who added the Raiders have improved dramatically since the preseason. The defense was especially spectacular against Riverview, forcing seven turnovers. Denzel Drone forced two fumbles and Raheem Billington had two interceptions. This week could be another defensive battle with Wharton, which recently held the high-powered East Bay running game to less than 200 yards. Next week, Plant City takes on East Bay in what will be one of the most pivotal games the Raiders will have toward their playoff hopes. Durant has not begun its District 6A-8 play, which starts with an important game next week at Sarasota. the Brandon Eagles visit the Cougars on Friday. Brandon has had a disappointing season so far. Brandon's top running back, senior Jarquez Bradshaw, sprained his ankle in the preseason game and has been out of action. Through three games, no Eagle running back had more than 20 yards total. Both games kick off at 7:30 p.m.

Reporter Darek Sharp can be reached at [email protected] trib.com.

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