Bishop McLaughlin at Hernando Christian Academy
WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m./Ernie Wever Park, 14395 Youth Drive (off U.S. 98/Ponce de Leon Boulevard), Brooksville
COACHES: Marty Williams (Bishop McLaughlin), David Raley (HCA)
LAST MEETING: First meeting.
NEED TO KNOW: Bishop McLaughlin will have to find a way to limit its penalties and negative yardage plays in order to win tonight's game. During last week's 20-0 loss to Sunlake, QB Jeff Pope was caught in the backfield several times trying to rush off tackle. When he began feeding the ball to FB Trae Williams, the Hurricanes showed signs of running the wishbone effectively. ... HCA is led by former Hudson backup QB David Rotteveel, a solid passer who threw for more than 250 yards in the Cobras' 2006 spring intrasquad game, his only significant action before this season.
Fort Myers Gateway Charter at Academy at the Lakes
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m./Land O' Lakes Recreation Center, 3032 Collier Parkway, Land O' Lakes
COACHES: Josh Balligner (FMGC), Mark Arbet (Lakes)
LAST MEETING: First meeting
NEED TO KNOW: In a battle of FHSAA Independents, Academy at the Lakes faces a tough test for its first 11-man football game in school history. FMGC held Lakeland Santa Fe, which went 12-8 the last two years, to only a safety in a Kickoff Classic win last week. The Wildcats, meanwhile, couldn't get their motion offense going in a 47-0 preseason loss to Indian Rocks Christian. ... Though FMGC was 1-7 last year, Arbet has expected this to be a tough game since speaking to its coaching staff, which expressed their excitement about the season due to the addition of several transfers in the offseason.
Gulf At Mitchell
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m./Mitchell Stadium, 2323 Little Road, New Port Richey
COACHES: Jay Fulmer (Gulf); Scott Schmitz (Mitchell)
LAST MEETING: Gulf 53, Mitchell 43 (2006)
NEED TO KNOW: Mitchell has not beaten Gulf in the previous two meetings - 53-43 in '06 and 29-28 in '05 - and as far as Schmitz is concerned, his team should be the underdog in this matchup. He also believes the Bucs are not as bad as the 51-7 beating it took from Tarpon Springs last week in the Kickoff Classic.
While Schmitz downplays his team's clout in this matchup, the Mustangs, possessing the greatest number of weapons his spread offense has ever had, come off a week in which it has had a high intensity level at practice and each facet of the game, passing, running and defense, has displayed a good work ethic. In addition to that great week, the Mustangs also beat Land O' Lakes in its preseason game, 27-16.
Hudson At Ridgewood
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m./Rams Booster Stadium, 7650 Orchid Lake Road, New Port Richey
COACHES: Mark Nash (Hudson); Chris Taylor (Ridgewood)
LAST MEETING: Ridgewood 48, Hudson 16 (2006)
NEED TO KNOW: Hudson presents a challenge to the Rams with its no-huddle offense and its size. Sophomore Zack Wynn is the main guy on a complex offense and he could be forced to mature at the position very quickly. Ridgewood feels it prepared for a matchup like this during the summer when the Rams faced Mitchell, which runs a similar offense, in their 7-on-7 league. Ridgewood linebacker Kurt Holt received 12 stitches in his hand following last week's Kickoff Classic win against East Lake. He took it easy in practice this week so he would be ready to play tonight. In addition to RB Byronell Arline, keep an eye on FB Barry Johnsonbaugh as a secondary back with his fair share of carries and yards and the QB/WR tandem of T.J. Haab and Addias Tolliver.
Land O' Lakes At Pasco
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m./W.F. Edwards Stadium, 36850 State Road 52, Dade City
COACHES: John Benedetto (Land O' Lakes); Tom McHugh (Pasco)
LAST MEETING: Land O' Lakes 28, Pasco 22, ot (2006)
NEED TO KNOW: If this year's game is half as exciting as last year's, then get ready for a showdown, but hopefully without the emotional spillover that occurred a year ago. McHugh said he's confident that won't happen again because he has been speaking to his players about controlling their negative emotions. The Pirates have put in a lot of work over the summer to completely transform the offense to a more creative one and this will be their first go at it because they didn't play a Kickoff Classic. Five of the seven Land O' Lakes players who were out during Land O' Lakes' Kickoff Classic loss to Mitchell 27-16 return this week; OLs Raleigh Bamberg and Geoff Roman, FB Stephen Wood and DE Keith Hoffman. Benedetto is cautious about Pasco because he knows they have undergone many changes and have talent and great coaching. McHugh reciprocated the respect to the Benedetto and the Gators.
Sunlake at River Ridge
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m./Jim Valentine Athletic Complex, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey
COACHES: Bill Browning (Sunlake), Tim Stevens (River Ridge)
LAST MEETING: First meeting
NEED TO KNOW: A victory for either team would be something for the history books. The Seahawks are playing their first varsity game, while the Royal Knights are anxious to snap a 23-game losing streak dating back to 2004. ... Neither team allowed a point in their kickoff classics. Sunlake's blitzing defense terrorized Bishop McLaughlin, but stopping River Ridge's senior-heavy offense could be much tougher. ... Knights RB Shawn Ford (pulled groin) will dress and be available, but fellow runners Justin Ayers and Stavros Arianas are expected to get the bulk of the work. ... River Ridge has emphasized aggressiveness on its offensive line this week in practice.
Wiregrass Ranch At Wesley Chapel
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m./Wildcat Stadium, 30651 Wells Road, Wesley Chapel
COACHES: Ricky Thomas (Wiregrass); John Castelamare (Wesley Chapel)
LAST MEETING: First meeting
NEED TO KNOW: One would think Wesley Chapel would be licking its chops to get at this first year varsity squad, but Castelamare doesn't want his players over looking the Bulls. The offense is a big play offense and can score points in bunches if opponents make mistakes. Although, Wesley Chapel is the more senior team, Castelamare says his defense, outside of linebacker Ray Rouch, is untested. Offensively, specifically, the line of scrimmage and quarterback Greg Jenkins, may possess all the experience the Wildcats need. ... Wesley Chapel lineman Patrick Pate is out for this game with a thigh injury but should be back by the next game.
Thomas has preached to his players to go in, play hard and not back down to the more established program. No matter the final score is, Thomas says he'll be happy as long as his team has fought hard and stepped up to the challenge.