High school football previews, Week 1 of playoffs

High school football previews, Week 1 of playoffs


High school football previews, Week 1 of playoffs


All games at 7:30 p.m.

Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons (8-2) at Immokalee (8-2)

Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons (8-2) at Immokalee (8-2)

* What to watch for: Cardinal Gibbons – This is a Region 5A-4 quarterfinal. Cardinal Gibbons will be without Division I recruit Peyton Bender, who verbally committed to Washington State and had passed for 2,217 yards and 28 TDs with six interceptions until getting hurt in the second quarter two weeks ago during a 70-24 loss to American Heritage. Sophomore QB Tyler Monaco will take his place. Monaco will have three Division I recruits as targets in George Rushing (Louisville, 670 yards, 13 TDs), Christian Blake (Northern Illinois) and Trevon Lee (deciding among Vanderbilt, Duke and Stanford with 743 yards and 5 TDs). Cardinal Gibbons also has a strong running game with Deon McIntosh (1,017 yards, 9 TDs). Immokalee – The Indians are coming off a 32-29, come-from-behind victory against South Fort Myers. “It was a tremendous win,” Immokalee coach Rich Dombroski said. “It was huge for our kids. We are a second half team. Now we want to get the ball rolling early.” Dombroski said he would not be against giving his team the halftime pep talk prior to the start of the game, just to get his players in a better frame of mind.

* The News-Press pick: Immokalee 31, Cardinal Gibbons 28

Ida Baker (9-1) at

Winter Haven (8-2)

Ida Baker (9-1) at Winter Haven (8-2)

* What to watch for: Baker – The Bulldogs are making their second state playoff appearance in school history, this time opening in the Region 6A-3 quarterfinals. Ida Baker lost to Charlotte 27-7 in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs in 2009. “We just have to go up there and play Baker football,” junior QB Sage Attwood said. The Bulldogs made successful road trips to Key West and Sarasota Booker earlier this season, so the three-hour bus ride to Winter Haven won’t be a major factor, he said. Attwood has passed for 1,976 yards and 15 TDs with seven interceptions, and he has rushed for 667 yards and seven TDs. Johnny Garrow (649 yards, 12 TDs) and Alex Febles (676 yards and 10 TDs) split carries from the backfield. Winter Haven – The Blue Devils are led by senior WR Kendrick Holland, who verbally committed to Virginia Tech. Baker coach Brian Conn and his staff watched Winter Haven in person last week. “They’re a good team,” Conn said. “They play Polk County football. Very physical. It’s a good atmosphere there. It’s an old, old stadium.”

* The News-Press pick: Winter Haven 28, Baker 21

Lakeland Lake

Gibson (7-2) at South Fort Myers (7-3)

Lakeland Lake Gibson (7-2) at South Fort Myers (7-3)

* What to watch for: Lake Gibson – This is a Region 6A-3 quarterfinal playoff game. The Braves are led by senior QB Trey Congdon, who has passed for 1,763 yards and 17 TDs with five interceptions. Junior Thomas Boles leads the team with 592 rushing yards and 12 TDs, and three wide receivers have 374 receiving yards or more, led by senior Jeremy Crissey’s 499 yards and six TDs. Lake Gibson coach Keith DeMyer said Congdon has done a good job guiding the offense. “He’s been a four-year starter for us,” DeMyer said. “We’re relying a little bit more on the pass, but we’re still going to run the ball like we normally do.” DeMyer said his biggest concern was with South’s offensive line. “I think they’re a great football team, no question about it,” he said. “Their offensive line, they do a great job up front. They mix it up in the backfield, too. It doesn’t really who’s back there. The secondary does a great job, too.” South Fort Myers – The Wolfpack are coming off a 32-29 loss at Immokalee in which senior WR I’Tavius Harvin’s last-second, would-be TD catch was ruled incomplete. South coach Grant Redhead compared Lake Gibson to Hialeah, a team South defeated 42-23 on Oct. 11. “They’ve got some good skill athletes, and they throw the ball well. It’s going to definitely be a challenge for us.”

* The News-Press pick: South Fort Myers 24, Lake Gibson 20

Palm Bay Bayside (7-3) at Naples (8-2)

Palm Bay Bayside (7-3) at Naples (8-2)

* What to watch for: Bayside – This is a Region 6A-4 quarterfinal playoff game, in which coach Jerrod Ackley returns to Collier County, where he had coached previously as the Immokalee coach and as a Lely assistant coach. Junior QB Austin Evarts has passed for 1,711 yards and 18 TDs with five interceptions. The ground game is led by senior William Harrell, who missed the previous two weeks with an injury but should be ready tonight. He has rushed for 741 yards and seven TDs. The Bears have one Division I recruit on the roster in senior offensive lineman Tomell One, who is 6-foot-3, 280 pounds and verbally committed to Marshall University. Naples – The Golden Eagles enter the postseason with momentum, having defeated Bradenton IMG Academy 21-14 last week. Junior QB Garrett Zech has passed for 598 yards and five TDs with four interceptions and rushed for 669 yards and 11 TDs. The ground game has been stellar, with junior Max Joseph (852 yards, 13 TDs) and sophomore Carlin Fils-Aime (784 yards, 14 TDs) leading the way. Protecting the football, a problem during Naples’ 33-27 loss Oct. 11 at Immokalee, will be vital. “They’ve got good athletes, and they’re going to be much bigger than us, which is normal,” Naples coach Bill Kramer said. “We have to not turn the ball over and do what we do.”

* The News-Press pick: Naples 42, Bayside 14

Bishop Verot (6-3) at Clearwater Central Catholic (8-2)

Bishop Verot (6-3) at Clearwater Central Catholic (8-2)

* What to watch for: Bishop Verot – This is a Region 3A-3 semifinal. The Vikings closed out the regular season by rallying for a 10-9 victory over North Fort Myers, despite gaining just 180 yards. Tonight marks Bishop Verot’s first state playoff appearance since 2007. The Vikings played just three teams during the regular season that finished with winning records, losing all three by an average of 40.3 points. The combined record of the six teams Bishop Verot beat this season was 10-47. It’ll take their best effort of the season for the Vikings to pull off the upset tonight. Junior QB Quinn Farrell (1,253 yards, 7 TDs) will need a big game throwing the football because Clearwater Central will likely focus on shutting down junior RB Jimmy Dwyer (716 yards, 8 TDs) and the Bishop Verot rushing attack. Clearwater Central Catholic – The Marauders, ranked No. 5 in the Class 3A state poll, are a run-first offense, averaging 272 yards per game. Five different players have rushed for 300 or more yards, led by seniors Diquan Walker (589 yards, 6 TDs) and Eric Davis (500 yards, 5 TDs). The Marauders defense, which allowed 14 or fewer points in eight regular season games, features a formidable front seven, led by senior DE Justus Reed, a Florida commit, and senior linebacker Caanan Brown, a Virginia commit.

* The News-Press pick: Clearwater Central Catholic 42, Bishop Verot 13

Dunbar (5-5) at

Wauchula Hardee (9-1)

Dunbar (5-5) at Wauchula Hardee (9-1)

* What to watch for: Dunbar – This is a Region 5A-4 quarterfinal. The Tigers are skidding into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak, capped by their worst setback of the season, a 43-26 loss to Fort Myers. The Tigers’ defense, a strength for much of the season, allowed the Green Wave to roll up 326 rushing yards. Junior QB Daniel Cobb is the team’s X-factor, an explosive runner who’s a threat to score from anywhere on the field. However, he’ll need to be effective throwing the football to senior WRs Joe Williams and Ryeshene Bronson for Dunbar to advance. Hardee – The District 5A-13 champion Wildcats feature a ferocious defense that allowed just 76 points during the regular season, including two shutouts. Hardee beat four teams that finished with six or more wins so the Wildcats don’t appear to be the product of a soft schedule. Senior DE Keyon Brown (42 tackles, 12 for loss, 4 sacks), a Georgia commit leads a sturdy defensive front. On offense, Hardee averages 251.4 rushing yards per game, behind the backfield duo of junior Keyonte Holley (819 yards, 9 TDs) and senior Timmy Steedley (769 yards, 4 TDs).

* The News-Press pick: Hardee 28, Dunbar 20

Sarasota Booker (6-3) at Island Coast (7-2)

Sarasota Booker (6-3) at Island Coast (7-2)

* What to watch for: Booker – This is a Region 5A-4 quarterfinal. The Tornadoes are making their first state playoff appearance since 2007. Booker had just two wins versus teams with winning records this season, one coming against Class 3A Cardinal Mooney. The Tornadoes feature a top-notch running back in senior Marlon Mack (1,438 yards, 9.7 yards per carry, 20 TDs), a UCLA commit. Island Coast – The Gators also feature a ground-heavy attack, averaging 249 rushing yards per game, led by junior RB Trey Boyd (1,046 yards, 8 TDs). Island Coast’s massive offensive line should be able to open up ample running lanes against Booker. Defensively, the Gators’ boast a fearsome front seven, spearheaded by junior Marlon Gonzalez, a Florida St. commit, and senior linebacker Christian Banasiak (51 tackles, 6.5 sacks)

* The News-Press pick: Island Coast 33, Booker 17

Estero (5-5) at

Palm Bay Heritage (10-0)

Estero (5-5) at Palm Bay Heritage (10-0)

* What to watch for: Estero – This is a Region 6A-4 semifinal. The Wildcats are making their second straight state playoff appearance. Sticking around beyond tonight, however, may be a challenge for Estero, which allowed 33.2 points per game during the regular season. Senior Zimon Brennan will start at quarterback for the Wildcats, who lost junior Cody Long for the season with a broken arm. Heritage – The Panthers, ranked No. 3 in Class 6A, outscored their opponents 421-67 this season, but surrendered 50 of those points in victories over Palm Bay and Bayside, the only two opponents it faced who finished with winning records.

* The News-Press pick: Heritage 31, Estero 14

Tampa Carrollwood Day (7-3) at First Baptist (8-1)

Tampa Carrollwood Day (7-3) at First Baptist (8-1)

* What to watch for: Tampa Carrollwood Day – This is a Region 2A-3 semifinal. After starting 2-3, the Patriots have reeled off five straight wins. The main contributor to this streak has been senior QB Taylor King, who has 1,958 passing yards with 18 TDs and just four interceptions. First Baptist – After making the playoffs for the first time in school history last year, the Lions are back in the postseason once again. This feat was accomplished despite losing 12 seniors from 2012’s Class 2A state semifinalist. “It’s a product of process of what we’re trying to accomplish as a school,” First Baptist coach Billy Sparacio said.

* The News-Press pick: First Baptist 28, Carrollwood 10

Lely (4-6) at Plantation American Heritage (9-1)

Lely (4-6) at Plantation American Heritage (9-1)

* What to watch for: Lely – This is a Region 5A-4 quarterfinal. Under first-year coach Culmer St. Jean, the Trojans secured their first state playoff berth since 2009 by winning four of their final five games. American Heritage – Despite a balanced running and passing attack of five-star senior RB Sony Michel (948 rushing yards), a Georgia commit, and junior QB Torrance Gibson (1,081 passing yards) the Patriots have been led by their strong pass defense this year. The team has 13 interceptions, with senior DB Juwan Dowels (Northern Illinois) leading the way with seven of those

* The News-Press pick: American Heritage 42-7

LaBelle (3-7) at Cocoa (9-1)

LaBelle (3-7) at Cocoa (9-1)

* What to watch for: LaBelle – This is a Region 4A-3 semifinal. The Cowboys, making their first state playoff appearance since 2007, drew a brutal opening matchup against powerful Cocoa. The Cowboys will lean heavily on senior RB Danny Robinson, who has 1,354 yards and 12 TDs. Cocoa – The Tigers are entering this match up on a nine-game winning streak, their lone loss coming to Washington D.C. Gonzaga in a season-opener. Cocoa has relied heavily senior RB Lorrenzo Pratt (1,496 rushing yards, 7.52 yards per carry, 24 TDs.)

* The News-Press pick: Cocoa 42-7

Cocoa Space Coast (7-3) at Clewiston (9-1)

Cocoa Space Coast (7-3) at Clewiston (9-1)

* What to watch for: Space Coast – This is a Region 4A-3 semifinal. Senior QB Nick Rittenhouse is a dual threat for the Vipers, passing for 2,533 yards and 26 TDs while rushing for 1,036 yards and 16 more scores. Clewiston – “It’s been the best season we’ve had in a few years,” coach Pete Walker said. “We’ve got good athletes that are dedicated and a veteran coaching staff that has done a great job with the team.” Walker attributes much of the team’s success to sophomore QB Davis Witt, who has passed for more than 1,400 yards with 18 TDs and just three interceptions.

* The News-Press pick: Clewiston 31-26

The News-Press Confidence Picks

The News-Press Confidence Picks

Ranking the Week 1 playoff teams from most likely to win to least likely

1. Naples: Golden Eagles’ foe Bayside didn’t beat one team that finished with a winning record this season. Under coach Bill Kramer, Naples is 9-1 in regional quarterfinals at Staver Field.

2. Island Coast: The Gators’ defense should be able to limit Sarasota Booker star RB Marlon Mack and its offensive line will look to wear down the Tornadoes’ defense.

3. First Baptist: Tampa Carrollwood will struggle to score against a Lions’ defense that allowed just 10.3 points per game.

4. South Fort Myers: The development of junior QB Keith Smith has helped diversify a Wolfpack offense that can’t rely exclusively on the run against Lake Gibson.

5. Immokalee: The Indians will need to play at a high level to get past high-powered Cardinal Gibbons. They’ll find a way to sneak one out at home.

6. Baker: The Bulldogs struggled against lesser teams than Winter Haven on the road during the regular season. Baker will need its offense to protect the football.

7. Clewiston: It’s the Tigers’ best season since advancing to Class 2A state championship in 2006 could end tonight against Cocoa Space Coast and its explosive offense.

8. Dunbar: The Tigers’ five wins this season came against teams that combined for just 17 victories. Dunbar certainly has the talent to win at Hardee, but hasn’t played well in a month.

9. Estero: The Wildcats’ leaky defense will prevent them from extending their season.

10. Lely: The Trojans are playing well, winning four of their last five, but Plantation American Heritage is just too good to even consider an upset.

11. Bishop Verot: The Vikings didn’t beat a team with a winning record during the regular season and it’s tough to see them ending that trend against a very good Clearwater Central Catholic squad.

12. LaBelle: The Cowboys, who nearly shocked Clewiston to win the District 4A-6 title, aren’t going to be able to match up with perennial state title contender Cocoa.


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