Tampa-Berkeley Prep at Springstead, 7:30 p.m.
First Springstead vanquished a lengthy losing streak to its heated county rival.
Then the Eagles scored a monumental, come-from-behind victory over quite possibly the biggest challenger to their district throne.
Winners of three straight, the last two against Nature Coast and Sunlake, Springstead (3-1) hosts Berkeley Prep (2-1) in a non-district matchup at Booster Stadium with considerable momentum.
"Sunlake is a quality opponent. Nature Coast is a quality opponent," Springstead head coach Mike Garofano said. "The kids are definitely riding high after the last two weeks."
Now the key is for the Eagles to keep moving forward in a far less meaningful game than the past couple.
"When we step on the field we want to win," Garofano said. "It's important to keep the momentum going. Hopefully we'll continue to rise and peak at the right time."
For the Eagles, senior signal caller Tyler Mahla has been excellent getting his team into the end zone, on his own or by the pass.
He could be without some weapons, though, as running backs Kevin Bedford (flu) and Latavious Hannah (sprained ankle) have missed practice.
Freshman running back T.J. Owens was pulled up from JV and in line to receive playing time before turning his ankle in practice on Wednesday.
The Buccaneers are coming off their first loss last week, 27-24 to Lakeland Christian, a team now receiving votes in the Associated Press Class 3A state poll.
Freshman running back Gordon Stetson has accounted for much of the rushing attack, carrying the ball 59 times for 247 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Brad Mayes, a junior, has completed 30-of-56 passes for 377 yards, with three touchdowns against two interceptions.
Sophomore Jacob Mathis and freshman Cade Weldon have been his primary targets, combining for 20 receptions for 249 yards and a score.
So far teams are averaging a little more than 20 points a game on Berkeley Prep. The Bucs have done a decent job getting to the quarterback with 11 sacks, paced by Jon Turkel's four.
"They're very talented. They've got really good skill-position players," Garofano said. "They're a formidable opponent. They're no slouches. It's an interesting challenge for us because we don't play too many Hillsborough County teams. We're trying to put ourselves on the map, not just in the North Suncoast but in that county."
This game will be carried live on WWJB 1450 AM and 103.9 FM, and streamed live at wwjb.com, beginning with the pregame show at 6:45 p.m.
Cocoa at Hernando, 7:30 p.m.
This was supposed to be a bye week for Hernando, but this season has hardly gone according to the schedule.
Last week the Leopards (1-2) added this game with Cocoa to make up for a rainout in Week 2, when they were originally hosting Jacksonville-Bishop Kenny.
"We were planning to have a light week for the guys to get injury-free because we're going into a tough part of our district," Hernando head coach Dwayne Mobley said. "But this team is playing pretty good and they're fast. It'll help us to see that type of speed before we get in our district."
The Tigers (2-1) are hardly filler for the Leopards' slate. They're the third-ranked team in 4A, and have been a perennial state title contender under John Wilkinson.
That name should sound familiar in local football circles. Prior to arriving at Cocoa in 2005, Wilkinson was head coach at Central from 2002-04.
Though he only managed a 15-15 mark with the Bears, his fortunes have turned considerably with Cocoa, where he guided the Tigers to three straight state titles from 2008-10.
Since losing its season opener to Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), 17-14, Cocoa has beaten Titusville-Astronaut (14-7) and state-ranked Plantation-American Heritage (31-10).
"We expect these guys to come over and play hard," Mobley said. "They've got a couple of real big guys on the team and that team is fast.
"They play a spread-type offense. They like to throw the ball. We're going to have to have our guys do some covering."
Freshman Bruce Judson has connected on 12-of-23 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns.
On the ground, senior Lorrenzo Pratt has run 66 times for 310 yards and two scores.
The Leopards have already dropped games to two teams appearing in the state poll, Jacksonville Bolles (35-22) and Citrus (26-6).
They finally got in the win column, busting out in a 27-10 victory at Weeki Wachee. Senior Mondrell Brown and junior Richard Graham IV combined for 204 rushing yards and three touchdowns in that one.
"The last game we didn't have as many mistakes and turnovers as we did the two previous games," Mobley said. "Now we've got to work on penalties. The referees are going to call penalties. We can't let that take us out of our game."
Right tackle Connor Foradas will make his return from a knee injury that kept him out the previous two games, but center Todd Flannery (hip), fullback Brad Ellis (leg) and outside linebacker Dallas Maclachlan (knee) could sit out.
With a critical 5A-District 6 stretch featuring Nature Coast, South Sumter, Pasco and Zephyrhills on the horizon, Hernando needs to keep building in spite of its high-caliber opponent.
"I need to see them executing the plays we're calling, especially on defense," Mobley said. "If we do that, this thing will be tight.
"Now if we go out as individuals and want to do our own thing, we could get blown out."
Nature Coast at Pasco, 7:30 p.m.
Fresh off its first win, 34-0 over Central, Nature Coast (1-2 overall, 1-0 5A-6) faces perhaps the finest team in the North Suncoast in Dade City.
The Sharks will get to play in front of a television audience, as this contest will be the Bright House Sports Network Game of the Week.
"Every time you win you get a little bit of confidence," Nature Coast head coach Charles Liggett said. "Our kids needed that. It's a big deal, it really is."
Pasco (2-1 overall, 0-0 5A-6) has actually shown some rare vulnerability, losing to Sunlake to open the season, 17-6.
That was the Pirates' first regular-season loss since 2009 and perhaps woke the sleeping giant. They went on to trounce Fivay (50-7) and Wesley Chapel (35-0).
"I expect a team that's big and fast, a team that's very explosive, that can score quickly if you let them," Liggett said. "You can't give them anything easy. I don't think there's ever a moment when those kids doubt themselves."
Liggett pointed to three key playmakers for the Pirates, senior Malik Johns (609 all-purpose yards, seven touchdowns), sophomore Nate Craig (eight catches, 135 yards, two touchdowns) and senior Phillip Wilson (one touchdown).
The Sharks received a jolt with the return of their standout, defensive end/wide receiver Rohan Blackwood from a three-week suspension last week.
Senior C.J. Maner gave the team 95 yards and a score on the ground in the Central win.
Quarterback Jamison Carnegie, having just returned from injury, suffered a fractured right hip and will miss at least three weeks. Ryan Quigley, who started in his place previously, will once again take over under center.
Though the matchup may look unfavorable on paper, Liggett didn't anticipate that the Sharks wouldn't put up a fight.
"We play to win, regardless of the situation," Liggett said. "We know we're young, we know a lot of things haven't gone our way and we're trying to fix them."
Weeki Wachee at Zephyrhills, 7:30 p.m.
Even as his team plays through only its second varsity season, Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee hasn't sugarcoated the Hornets' start.
At 1-3 following the loss to Hernando in its 5A-6 opener, Weeki Wachee will try get on track against another district foe, Zephyrhills (3-1 overall, 0-1 5A-6).
"Hernando has a strong defense, extremely physical," Lee said. "We had chances; we just didn't take advantage of it. A team like Hernando, with that type of talent, that's tough to overcome."
Against the Leopards, Lee pointed to the Hornets' inability to protect the quarterback, and to that end two starting offensive lineman might be out with injuries, Frank Schooley (shoulder) and Jacob Tinch (ankle).
David Tinch, the quarterback, is still dealing with a shoulder issue that essentially limited him to kicking duties last week, so Marcus Allen will serve as the primary signal caller for the second game in a row.
The Bulldogs have shown steady improvement posting winning records the past two seasons and starting off 3-0 before running into South Sumter a week ago, falling 38-15.
"Offensively, they've got some athletes. They'll give you a lot of formations. They're very athletic, so you need to find a way to contain them," Lee said. "Defensively they're very active. They've got some speed.
"We've got to stay within ourselves, not turn the ball over and control the ball."
South Sumter at Central, 7:30 p.m.
Central (0-4 overall, 0-1 5A-6) has the unenviable task of trying to pick up its first win against a South Sumter (4-0, 1-0 5A-6) team that has rolled to this point.
In four games, the Raiders have outscored their opponents 180-29.
Though mistakes continue to haunt the Bears, they have seen the defense take major strides and the breakthrough campaign of running back Robbie Bradley continued with his 103-yard showing against Nature Coast.