Game of the Week: Pinellas Park at East Lake
Pinellas Park's Wing-T attack
Pinellas Park has stuck with what it does best: Running the football by deception. “We have to try and find a way to slow them down,” East Lake coach Bob Hudson said. The Patriots average 435 yards on the ground and only 61 passing yards per game, and the ground and pound has led Pinellas Park to a 7-0 record and playing for a chance to win the Class 7A-District 9 crown. The team is led by running backs Pierre Johnson (832 yards, 5 TDs), Donte Maxson (800 yards, 10 TDs), Kal-el Williams (485 yards, 4 TDs) and Oscee Calhoun (361 yards, 4 TDs). Pinellas Park quarterback Ange Addison has done a good job as a game manager in not turning over the football and making the right reads in the option attack. Addison has thrown for 377 yards, rushed for 135 and has scored five touchdowns. “It's very important that they all play well,” Pinellas Park coach Kenny Crawford said of his running backs. “It is also very important how they all play without the ball, because that's when we're at our best is when they all do their jobs when they don't have the ball in their hands.”
Can anybody slow East Lake?
Every time East Lake steps off a field after the final snap of its Friday night games, teams are pondering more and more if the there is a perfect formula to somehow upend the Eagles. East Lake went into a highly anticipated matchup with Countryside last Friday and won easily, 47-3. It solidified East Lake as a team to keep an eye on as the postseason nears. The team's only loss was 35-14 in the preseason to nationally ranked Bradenton Manatee. Since then, the Eagles defense has only yielded 38 points and the offense has put up 327, good for an average of 46 points per game. “East Lake is a phenomenal team and is well coached,” Crawford said. “They have some special kids right now. Anytime you face a team with four or five All-American kids like we are, we have to be on our A game.”
District championship on the line
An East Lake victory against Pinellas Park coupled with a triumph against winless Northeast next Friday would give the Eagles the Class 7A-District 9 title. “The biggest thing about winning the district championship gives us that home-field advantage and we don't have to travel as much,” Hudson said. If Pinellas Park wins, it still would have to beat Countryside next week for the title. “It would be a tremendous thing if we could pull it off, but we can't look ahead to the future,” Crawford said. “We have to focus on the present game on hand and stay focused.” A loss to East Lake for Pinellas Park sets up a district runner-up game next week against Countryside.
Pinellas Park (7-0) at East Lake (7-0): This game will decide the champion of Class 7A-District 9. East Lake, which beat Countryside last week 47-3, has seemed nearly unbeatable at times, outscoring opponents 327-38 through seven games. Pinellas Park counters with one of the most potent rushing attacks in the state, averaging 435.7 yards per game. If East Lake wins, it is the outright district champ and Pinellas Park would meet Countryside next week with the district runner-up spot on the line. Lakewood (5-2) at Tarpon Springs (4-3): Tarpon Springs is coming off a bye and has had two weeks to prepare for Lakewood, while the Spartans are coming off an easy victory against Dunedin. The winner of this game will likely be the Class 5A-District 8 champion and the loser will be the district runner-up. Calvary Christian (4-3) at Shorecrest Prep (2-5): Todd Yoder's group will have its sights set on victory No. 5, behind a potent offense averaging 373.1 yards per game. St. Petersburg Catholic (4-3) at Jacksonville Episcopal (2-6): The Barons will take to the road and head to Jacksonville to take on Episcopal, coached by former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell. Clearwater (0-7) at Northeast (0-7): Northeast nearly pulled off its first win of the season last week against Seminole, narrowly losing 22-20. Countryside (5-2) at Seminole (2-6): The Cougars will look to rebound from last week's loss to East Lake and pick up some momentum for a potential district runner-up matchup against Pinellas Park next Friday.
Dunedin (1-6) at Boca Ciega (1-6): Winner of this game will avoid a last place finish in Class 5A-District 8. Largo (6-1) at Lakeland Lake Gibson (4-2): One tough contest to the next for the Packers, as Largo coach Rick Rodriguez refuses to see his team take a game off during the regular season. Osceola (5-3) at Palm Harbor University (4-3): Warriors running back Jamil Morris has rushed for 844 yards and scored 13 TDs. St. Petersburg (5-2) at Dixie Hollins (2-5): Facing arguably the state's No. 1 team, Bradenton Manatee, in last Friday's 51-13 loss, the Green Devils will aim to rebound and nab win No. 6 on the season. Canterbury (5-2) at Northside Christian (3-4): After starting the season 5-0, the Crusaders have dropped two straight to Carrollwood Day and Indian Rocks Christian. Admiral Farragut (4-2) at Clearwater Central Catholic (6-1): The Marauders defense has been equally as impressive as their offense, racking up 22 sacks and intercepting 11 passes. Keswick Christian (0-7) at Indian Rocks Christian (6-2): The Golden Eagles just keep on rolling after a 56-7 victory against Cambridge last Friday.
- Andy Villamarzo