Springstead at Anclote, 7:30 p.m.
It only took two weeks to leave one undefeated team standing in Hernando County – and it might not be the one people expected.
The question now isn't just whether Springstead (2-0) will suffer its first loss, but whether the Eagles will finally allow their opponent to dent the scoreboard.
They'll ride a tidal wave of momentum into Holiday when they face Anclote (0-1) tonight.
"You don't want to be soaring too high," Springstead head coach Bill Vonada said. "I do think we feel good about what we're doing. Maybe it's validation for all the hard work they're putting in, it's starting to pay off.
"We've still got a ways to go. We see in the film there are things we've got to correct. But when you have a little bit of a success after putting in hard work, it makes you willing to put in even more."
Statistically, the Eagles are off to an astounding start. They've won their first two games, over Ridgewood and Fivay, by a combined 86-0.
Throw in a 37-0 drubbing of Hudson in the preseason, and thus far Springstead has decimated the competition.
Though the Cobras and Rams are both rebuilding, the win against the Falcons last week was particularly impressive considering Fivay went to the playoffs in 2011 and projects to remain competitive.
It should also be noted that the Falcons defeated the Eagles last season, 21-14, as Springstead went 4-6 overall.
"Last year was a learning year for some of the guys," Vonada said. "Secondly, they really didn't like the outcome and we were willing to do what it took to get better.
"I think maybe we're a little bit quicker than we have been defensively. And we've got guys buying in more in all facets of our program."
One player who has exemplified that well so far is sophomore running back Daniel Wright, who has seemingly come out of nowhere to rush for 203 yards and four touchdowns.
Still, the veteran Vonada cautioned that the challenges will only get tougher as the Eagles progress through the schedule.
Anclote has steadily improved through its first three varsity campaigns – 0-10 to 3-7 to 4-6. The Sharks fell to Mitchell in their season opener, 20-10, before a Week 2 bye.
"They give you a variety of looks, first of all," Vonada said. "We expect them to test us on several different fronts. Coach (Matt) Wicks is an experienced coach. He's had two weeks to prepare."
Vonada figures that extra prep time for Anclote could negate some of the advantage Springstead gains from running its triple option offense.
There are also some mental miscues to clean up, the coach said. But by and large, the Eagles have plenty to smile about at this juncture.
"High school is such a momentum game and it has really been key the last couple of weeks," Vonada said. "We'd like to keep it going into district play (starting next week) and we need to increase our pace of play to do that."
South Sumter at Hernando, 7:30 p.m.
While Springstead has raised eyebrows for its hot start, Hernando's opening to the season has elicited similar surprise in the other direction.
The Leopards sit at 0-2, blowing leads against Clermont-East Ridge and Groveland-South Lake.
That's not the beginning predicted for a Hernando team seeking its third straight postseason appearance.
"This week there has been a little soul-searching," Hernando head coach Dwayne Mobley said. "We're trying to figure out who actually wants to play.
"The discipline thing doesn't sit good with me, because I know if we're not disciplined, we're not going to win. That's what we're working on this week, being disciplined and transferring what we do in practice to the game."
Unfortunately for the Leopards, tonight they host perhaps the toughest opponent on their schedule, South Sumter (2-0), at Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium.
The Red Raiders are perennially one of the fiercest programs in the area under longtime headman Inman Sherman.
After posting two straight uncharacteristic losing records, they returned to their former glory last season, going 8-3 with a district title in Class 4A, though they had the misfortune of drawing eventual state champ Jacksonville-Bolles in the first round of the postseason.
One of their wins in 2011 came at the expense of Hernando, 55-28, and the Bushnell-based squad has shown that same caliber of offensive prowess this year.
South Sumter followed a 77-15 victory over Wildwood with a 55-13 thumping of East Ridge – the same team that beat the Leopards a week prior.
"South Sumter looks good," Mobley said. "They're big, fast and well-coached. We're going to have to come out and play our best game."
Mobley believe the Red Raiders, clicking thus far, present a welcome opportunity to show if his players are willing to step up.
By reverting back to their style of play, cutting down on a recent penchant for turnovers and sustaining drives, Mobley believes the Leopards can stymie their high-scoring foe.
Yet the bottom line for Hernando beyond trying to avoid 0-3 is turning things around before district play fires up next Friday.
"We want to win, but we want guys to start playing better," Mobley said. "We don't want to go into the district with the same things we've been doing the last two weeks.
"We want to see us every game getting better, not staying the same or going backward. It would be the same if we won our first two games."
On the injury front, senior linebacker O'Mar Hawkins is out this week with an ankle injury.
The Leopards are already without sophomore linebacker/kicker John Bronson, who sat out at South Lake and will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery this week.
The game will be carried live on WWJB (AM) 1450 AM and WXJB 99.9 FM, beginning with the pregame show at 7 p.m.
Lecanto at Central, 7:30 p.m.
For at least one week, Central hasn't had to spend its practice time trying to pick up the pieces.
Last Friday's come-from-behind, 28-17 triumph at Wildwood – the Bears' first on-field victory since October 2010 – certainly relieved some pressure.
"The sun comes up every day, but Saturday, Sunday and Monday, it was definitely brighter," Central head coach Mike Einspahr said. "For them to get a varsity win; they've been working for two years. It gives validity to what they've been doing.
"Winning answers a lot of questions and the kids have a little more focus this week. They understand that when they work hard, the game will never be perfect, but if they keep hanging in there and give themselves a chance in the end, good things can happen."
Central will try to make it two in a row, hosting Lecanto (1-1) at the Bears' Den.
The Panthers, themselves trying to build through years of struggle, are coming off a 24-7 win at Weeki Wachee, one week after falling 20-3 to Class 1A Chiefland.
"I think they're very fast," Einspahr said. "They throw the ball quite a bit. Their kids run good routes. They're very precise. The quarterback gets them in good situations where they can be successful."
Speaking of quarterbacks, the Bears are starting a new signal caller with junior Cole Teater taking over under center.
Sophomore Cody Brooks, the starter the first two weeks, is out with a concussion sustained on the opening drive against Wildwood.
Teater has seen significant action in relief of Brooks over the initial couple of contests, generally showing the ability to move the offense down the field.
"Both kids have different styles," Einspahr said. "We have to tweak a few things that work well for Cole."
No matter who takes the snaps, Central has to continue to limit its turnovers and penalties, something it finally accomplished in defeating the Wildcats.
Building on last week could truly signify that the Bears have started to head in the right direction.
"You get the second one and just like any young team, once you get a little bit of confidence in one scenario you get a little more in the second," Einspahr said. "You get guys to believe in themselves and each other and you never know what can happen."
Nature Coast at Dunnellon, 7:30 p.m.
Much like Hernando, Nature Coast is attempting to recollect itself, stumbling out of the gate at 0-2.
Though last week's 46-7 defeat at Orange Park-Fleming Island was somewhat anticipated, blowing a 14-0 lead to Crystal River in a 21-14 opening loss still looms large.
The Sharks don't exactly have an easy task in trying to capture another tough road game, this one at Dunnellon (1-1).
"Any time you're 0-2, regardless who you're playing, whether it's district or non-district, you're dealing with a sense of urgency," Nature Coast head coach Charles Liggett said. "We don't want to be 0-3. We want to be 1-2 and looking to get things better."
Liggett admitted that the coaching staff "broke down" the Sharks just as they would an opponent, establishing a base from which to make adjustments.
Issues in the passing game remain, and Week 1 starter Ryan Quigley has returned to that role, having made way for fellow junior Luis Espinosa at Fleming Island.
There will be packages, though, that employ the speedy Espinosa, and junior Trevor Castro could also factor in at some point.
The snaps will come from a different player thanks to a dislocated shoulder that will keep center Nick Vogel out of action this week.
But the good news for Nature Coast, senior linebacker/fullback Joey Berrios is back from a pulled ligament in his right ankle that was supposed to keep him out 2-4 weeks.
Hence the Sharks will have their leading tackler from the past two seasons back in the fold, as well as starting defensive lineman Michael Dennis, out a week ago due to shoulder and ankle ailments.
Not that defense was a huge problem at Fleming Island. The Golden Eagles merely took advantage of a constant short field thanks to eight Nature Coast turnovers.
Liggett conceded that can't happen against the Tigers, who he said don't appear to be running their traditional Wing T offense anymore, but rather more of a Pistol style which he compared to Fleming Island.
Dunnellon has beaten Ocala-West Port, 37-28, and lost to Ocala-Forest, 37-20, and Liggett made it clear how the Sharks must approach this matchup.
"I think this game is pivotal for us," Liggett said. "If we go and play well and come out successful, I think it'll erase the first two games.
"I think it's huge. I think it puts the kids back in the mindset and belief that they can play with anybody in the district."