1. MANATEE 46 (2-2) -- Returns to top spot in Herald poll though two voters are sticking to their guns leaving Palmetto at No. 1 but moving the Canes to No. 2 after a 48-6 pasting of Southeast. Manatee’s losses are to No. 1 and No. 10 nationally ranked Don Bosco and Good Counsel. The Canes gave each its toughest game. Locally, Joe Kinnan’s 11 defeated Southeast and Riverview by a combined 96-12. Case closed.
2. PALMETTO 44 (5-0) -- You have to like what you’ve seen so far, but after the Tigers dispose of Bayshore this Friday the real season begins. Their next three games are against undefeated Wauchula Hardee, Manatee and Southeast. It will determine just how good this team is and whether it’s going to be in the playoffs.
3. SOUTHEAST 30 (4-1) -- The most important thing for the Noles is to put the Manatee game in the rearview mirror and look to the future. The Canes did their archrivals a favor and exposed all their weaknesses, which could help with the damage control. Southeast gets a perfect opportunity to rectify things this Friday in district opener against DeSoto County.
4. BAYSHORE 22 (2-3) -- After historic win over Lakewood Ranch, the Bruins have stumbled with two straight losses, giving up a combined 63 points in those games. It doesn’t get any easier this Friday against a Palmetto team that has speed, size and can throw the ball against a defense that has been vulnerable through the air. Time is running out to get J.P. Gordon his first winning season.
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5. LAKEWOOD RANCH 10 (2-3) -- The Mustangs have their biggest district game this Friday against Tarpon Springs in a contest that could eventually determine their playoff fate. Both teams are 1-0 in district play and neither has played preseason favorite Largo. Defense will again determine Ranch’s fate against an opponent that is averaging 41 points in its four victories.
Others receiving votes: Braden River (2).
Points system: Ten for first place, eight for second, six for third, four for fourth and two for fifth.
Voters: Alan Dell, Jason Dill, John Lembo, Vin Mannix, Timothy R. Wolfrum.