Highlights from Week 8:
Team of the Week
Bloomingdale: Since the football program's inception in 1987, Bloomingdale has had minimal success. There have been just four winning seasons and three playoff appearances, none as a district champion. That could soon change. The Bulls are on the verge on their first district title, and quite possibly the school's first undefeated regular season. Bloomingdale cleared a major hurdle with its 33-24 win over Tampa Bay Tech in a battle of unbeatens in Class 7A, District 9. The Bulls move into a tie with Plant City at the top of the district standings. Better still, Bloomingdale ended the Titans' 15-game regular-season win streak. The Bulls did it with a balanced offense that had more than 350 yards and an opportunistic defense that forced five turnovers (two interceptions, three fumble recoveries). "We've got 20 seniors. It's no secret we had to beat Tampa Bay Tech to take the next step," coach Max Warner said. "We've got another big one next week (vs. Plant City), but this one was obviously huge for our program."
Player of the Week
Josh Youngblood, Berkeley Prep: For nearly a month, Youngblood was taking handoffs, not giving them. The dual-threat quarterback broke his right hand — his throwing hand — in a season-opening loss to Clearwater Central Catholic. The injury relegated the Temple commit to running back for three games. He returned under center for the Bucs' rivalry game against Tampa Catholic on Sept. 28 and led his team to victory. On Friday, Berkeley Prep had perhaps its best performance on offense this season in a wild 43-42 double-overtime win over Mitchell. Youngblood rushed for more than 200 yards and threw two touchdowns, the last on fourth down in the second overtime. Jakob Hines then ran in the two-point conversion for the winning score. Mitchell quarterback Kym-Mani King also had a memorable game with 174 yards rushing, 48 passing and 17 tackles on defense.
Coach of the Week
Jay Trotter, Gibbs: Trotter had perhaps one of the toughest jobs in the area. Hired just before the start of the season, he had to somehow get the Gladiators ready to play a very tough schedule. They lost their first five games, but in the four-team Class 5A, District 9 there was still a chance to win out and go to the postseason. Gibbs beat Tarpon Springs 20-7 two weeks ago for its first win. Then came Friday's 26-17 win over rival and district favorite Lakewood. With only winless Dunedin left on the district schedule, Gibbs is almost a lock to go to the playoffs. A winnable home game against Lake Gibson awaits. The best the Gladiators can do is 4-6, but that will be good enough. Gibbs went to the playoffs in 2016 with a 2-7 record. "They've been through so much, with these coaching changes, not having consistencies," Trotter said. "To see them come out here and know they have a shot to win districts, it's awesome to see."
Chamberlain had to defeat Hillsborough Friday night if it wanted to stay in playoff contention in Class 6A, District 7. The Chiefs defeated the Terriers 19-13 in overtime, thanks mainly to defense.
Despite giving up 13 unanswered points in the second half, Chamberlain came up with two key interceptions. The first came with just over two minutes to play in a tie game. James Ash, a 265-pound defensive tackle, dove to catch a tipped pass for an interception. Chamberlain had a shot to win in regulation but missed a 26-yard field goal.
Then there was an interception by Brian Casazza in overtime. Two plays later, Antony Guzman was in the end zone for the win.
"Our defense has been the foundation of this program when I arrived and it's continued," said fourth-year coach Jason Lane. "The offense is in development but it's gotten better. But our defense has been our rock. We knew they were going to win this game for us."
With two winnable district games remaining against Blake and Brandon, the Chiefs (5-2) likely will finish 4-1 in the district with the only loss coming to Armwood. Hillsborough plays Armwood in two weeks.
Like Chamberlain, Gaither also had a must-win game against Class 7A, District 8 foe Sickles. And like Chamberlain, it was the defense that came through. The Cowboys (5-3) caused four turnovers and had a goal-line stand in a 28-2 win. They are 3-2 in the district, a game behind Wiregrass Ranch and two games behind Plant. Wharton (1-7) awaits in two weeks for the final district game.
"If we didn't get this one we knew we were done," Gaither coach Kirk Karsen said.
When Zephyrhills and River Ridge square off, something big is usually at stake, mainly a district title. Both teams traded scores throughout Friday. The Bulldogs held on in the fourth quarter to win 21-19.
This was Zephyrhills' third straight win over the Royal Knights. All have been decided by four points or fewer.
"River Ridge is a very good football team. I respect the heck out of their coaches. Anytime you face them, you know it's going to be a battle," Bulldogs coach Nick Carroll said. Here are the results of last year's meetings.
2017: Zephyrhills 38, River Ridge 35 (regular season)
2017: Zephyrhills 35, River Ridge 31 (playoffs)