CAPE CORAL AT VENICE
Venice QB Trey Burton has been very efficient in the passing game going 74-116(64%) for 1347 yards and 12 touchdowns. That would be hard enough to deal with, but he is also a force on the ground with 783 yards and 21 touchdowns. The next weapon that Venice throws at you is RB Dri Archer. The 5'6 speedster has 1482 yards and 17 touchdowns. In terms of yards gained, he is also the leading receiver with 402. Beckett Wales(TE), Robert Fordham(WR), Josh Boyle(WR), and Justin Grant(WR) are other options. Venice has a great offensive line led by Mike Lopez and Brian O'Leary. Through nine games, Venice has produced 3986 yards on just 448 plays (8.9 yards per play).
The defense has the potential to be dominant. They are very solid at all 11 spots and have some good depth. The return of senior Gerald Oriol will add an additional defensive linemen to the mix: he has been working his way back from injury and should get better every week. Brandon Wilkinson leads the team with 10 sacks, while linebacker Ethan Mix has 94 tackles and is the heart and soul of the defense. A solid secondary rounds out the unit. Keep an eye on Robert Fordham who will need to continue his good play against some elite wide receiver's down the road.
Interesting notes: Venice lost to Cape Coral(27-10) last year in round one of the playoffs.
Cape Coral has used two QB's this year: Jaylen Watkins and Colin Saring. Watkins is more a running threat and Saring is the better passer. One issue is that Watkins can be an outstanding WR and CB/S and time spent at QB takes away from other spots where he can make an impact. At running back, Spencer Boyd missed some time early in the year, but has worked his way back and is close to 100%. He has averaged six yards per carry and has game-breaking skills when healthy. Freshmen Mario Pender has been a pleasant surprise with a 7.3 yards per carry. Prince Holloway is the fastest player on the field. The sophomore blazer caught 24 balls with five touchdowns. Larry Gary, jr is a big target on the other side, his physicality is a difficult match up for smaller corners. Watkins and Cameron Hall are capable of making an impact here as well. The offensive line is big and physical and is can take over a game. Nate Sprosty and Daniel Koenig headline this unit.An upper tier secondary is the best part of the defensive unit. Hall, Boyd, Watkins, Holloway, Tevin Gant, and Miguel Grant all have serious wheels and fly to the football. Brian Justice is an outstanding linebacker who leads the team in tackles with 126. Kadeem Russell is second with 82. If there is a weakness it is the defensive line, however this unit has shown flashes of brilliance during the year. Consistency will be the key and they are going to need to make some plays in the backfield. Shawn Argoe has shown some ability inside.
Interesting notes: Cape Coral made a run last year beating Venice(27-10) and then Manatee(31-28) in one of the great games of last year's playoffs. They lost to Largo in the quarterfinals(28-3). This year, Cape lost a heart-breaker to Naples(3A district winner) by one point.
CHARLOTTE at FT. MYERS
Another year, another chance at the playoffs for Ft. Myers. After dropping their first district game, they won the district by virtue of a 10-7 victory over Cape Coral. Ft. Myers likes to run the ball and there are plenty of options. Josh Kendrick(648 yards), Jeremy Davis(394), Nic Guffey(329), and Sydney Gartrell(224) lead the way on the ground. Davis has elite speed and can be a game breaker. Quarterback Nick Catti will need to be better in the playoffs. He threw for 473 yards during the regular season, but completed just 34% of his passes. James Whitfield(WR) and John Kohlhauff(TE) are great targets and they need to be involved. The offensive line was ravaged by injuries, but has started to come together. Look for continued improvement.
Greg Wade is an outstanding LB who plays sideline to sideline for the Green Wave. A tough, heady player, he is capable of taking over a game and finished the year with 80 tackles. Stephen Plein will return from suspension and give a lift at DE. Emory Mandala was a great addition to the interior of the defense, he has athleticism and is a run stuffer. Defensive back Tyler Carner was second on the team with 63 tackles and had three interceptions. Overall, the unit probably underachieved for the year, but they were better over the final five games and have a week off to get healthy.
Interesting notes: Lost to Charlotte(31-0) during the regular season. Lost to rival Dunbar(21-15).
The Charlotte Fighting Tarpons have one of the state's top play makers in RB Mike Bellamy. The electric sophomore is nicknamed 'speedy' and has run for 1589 yards with 22 touchdowns. They are deep at running back with senior Troy McClary. His 722 yards actually came with a higher yards per carry(12.9) than Bellamy(8.7). Kyle Midgett has shown improvement all year. He completed 60% of his passes for 1006 yards and six touchdowns. He is capable of more and has two fine WR's in Alex Mut(26-382) and Markese Brantley(11-199). McClary also gets some balls out of the backfield and in the slot. The offensive line is led by Byron Grant and Jesse Kirchner. It is particularly good at run blocking. The least number of points scored for this offense was 26 in the lone loss to Venice.
The defense is more than capable of shutting down the opposition. Senior LB Brandon Ross is the leader, he flashes a ton of ability and can be that physical presence in the middle of the field. On the line, junior DT Antwan Allen is the key, Allen has great athleticism and is capable of being a presence with the pass rush. Consistency for him is the key. The secondary is rock solid with Mut, Brantley, Josh Sayed, and Nick Stephenson. They held seven of nine opponents under 17 points.
Interesting notes: The big win was on the road at Manatee(38-32). It was a game of big plays on both sides. The offense was consistently awesome averaging 35.4 points through nine games
COUNTRYSIDE AT LARGO
The Largo Packers like to run the ball and use an opportunistic passing game to keep defenses honest. Quarterback Ryan Eppes has done just that with 701 yards on just 35 completions. Mike Lang is the leading receiver with 22 catches for 548 yards and Myrick Gwynn added 10 catches for 236 yards. The running game used a variety of weapons. Marcel Durham leads the way with 81 carries for 484 yards and 8 touchdowns, while other options include Jason Wine and Sean Holte.. Quarterback Eppes shows his versatility by adding 360 yards on the ground. The offensive line returned several key pieces from the state semi-final club last year and has been as good as advertised.
Sean Holte and Mike Marry are two ball hawking linebackers who make a ton of plays sideline to sideline. Marry, a senior, has drawn significant interest on the recruiting trail. Defensive end Lucas Kelly registered eight sacks and is very active on the edge. Jason Wine and Mike Lang both had 3 interceptions and excel against the running game from their secondary spots. Overall, the defense pitched two shutouts and held eight of nine opponents under 16 points.
Interesting notes: Largo made the state semi's last year before losing to St. Thomas(35-13). There lone loss is to Lakewood(St Pete).
Countryside counters with a balanced offense. Quarterback Jimbo Chmelik completed 60% on his way to 1217 yards with 14 touchdowns. Todd Shorter caught 38 balls to lead the team in receptions and yards. Jalen Goodloe, Alton Taylor, and Dawrence Roberts were all active in the passing game. Roberts led the team in rushing with 955 yards with over six yards per carry. Chmelik added 265. Terry Johnson is solid depth.
The Countryside defense has turned it on down the stretch surrendering 6, 7, and 3 points in the last three games. Derek Wolfinbarger had seven sacks and is an active player on the defensive line.. Tyler Walker had eight sacks at DE. Blake Johnson had 51 tackles to lead a solid linebacking group. The secondary has improved with each game and will be tested down the road.
Interesting notes: Lost to Palm Harbor University and Tarpon Springs.
ST. PETERSBURG AT DUNEDIN
Dunedin features one of the top running back's in the state, Adaris Bellamy. Bellamy is big, fast, and has special burst. He will attempt to carry the load for this otherwise young offense. Bellamy is great at running downhill and making players miss at the 2nd level or running over them. Kyle Pedretty is the best of a solid offensive line, while TE Chad Sunday provides more help in the running game. Wide receiver Austin Williams gets the most balls from QB Ryan Singer. Singer has a lot of potential and is close to turning the corner.
The defense is led by senior LB Bryan Morris. Morris has a ton of experience and seems to be always around the football. The DL is on the small side, but they are feisty and make a lot of plays. The secondary has good speed and several play makers who will be counted on to provide help against the run and be sure tacklers. Adrian Williams is perhaps the best of the bunch.
Interesting notes: Lost to playoff teams Countryside and Largo in the middle of the season, but rebounded with four straight wins.
St. Petersburg likes to run the football. Then run it some more. They use a variety of different runners including Ben Sams, Stevie Murph, Mark Wilson, and Rashad Lewis. All average over five yards per touch. Quarterback Chris Winiecki is asked to limit mistakes and keep defenses honest with some timely passing. You can't run the ball without a tough, physical offensive line and the Green Devils have that. They average 5.84 yards per attempt and grind out first downs.The defense is one of the best in the area. The most points they have given up was 17 and that was to Largo who is one of the top teams in 5A.
Interesting notes: Lost two games, each by one point: Largo(17-16) and East Lake(11-10).