Editor’s note: Programs are ranked based on how they are performing against their own schedules, not based on hypothetical head-to-head matchups.
Voting points breakdown: 10 for first, 8 for second, 6 for third, 4 for fourth, 2 for fifth, 1 for sixth. (Last week, school, record, points with first-place votes in parentheses)
1. (t-1) Braden River, 2-0, 60 points (6)
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The knock against the Pirates is the strength of schedule isn’t glamorous, but what can’t be knocked is that they beat the teams in front of them. Raymond Thomas and DeShaun Fenwick packed a lethal one-two combo as Braden River rolled up 584 rushing yards en route to the program’s 23rd straight regular season victory and a unanimous selection as the No. 1 team in this week’s Power Poll.
This week: at Lakewood Ranch, 7:30 p.m.
2. (t-1) Manatee, 1-2, 46
It’s an on-and-off battle for the Hurricanes. The Kickoff Classic against state power Seffner Armwood produced a lot of good, followed by the howler in Alabama where they gave up a program-record 78 points. The last two weeks have seen the explosive offense limited to 14 total points and a split, with a 7-3 victory against Palmetto and a rout at the hands of rival Venice, which enacted a running clock for the second half. Don’t fret Canes fans, this week begins district play in a relatively weaker league.
This week: vs. Tampa Alonso, 7:30 p.m.
3. (3) Palmetto, 2-1, 38
Led by their defense, the Tigers are one of two public schools in the county with a winning mark. They constantly pressured Southeast last Friday en route to a six-sack game from the defense, while the offense continues to find some rhythm. And they might have found a go-to running back in the committee approach they use when Elijah Davis tallied the momentum-shifting 42-yard run early in the fourth quarter to stem the tide Palmetto’s way.
This week: at Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.
4. (4) Southeast, 0-2, 24
The Seminoles hung right with Palmetto for three quarters, but moral victories don’t matter. Latrell Peavy’s 92 rushing yards were a highlight for an offense that was constantly pressured by the speedy Tigers. The Noles, though, should find head coach Rashad West’s first victory when they host Bayshore in a pivotal district opener for both teams.
This week: vs. Bayshore, 7:30 p.m.
5. (5) Lakewood Ranch, 0-2, 11
It’s been a tough start for the Mustangs, who were blown out twice sandwiched around a weather-canceled game with Bayshore. And it’s not getting better as Ranch hosts archrival Braden River in the annual East Manatee Bowl to open up Class 7A-District 11 play. The Mustangs had won four straight in the series before the Pirates won the last two years.
This week: vs. Braden River, 7:30 p.m.
6. (6) Bayshore, 0-1, 7
The Bruins haven’t played since Week 1, when top-ranked Braden River blanked them 36-0. So they’ve had plenty of time to prepare for their district opener at rival Southeast. The winner gets a huge boost moving forward through Class 5A-District 11 games.
This week: at Southeast, 7:30 p.m.
1. (1) IMG Academy, 3-0, 60 (6)
IMG earned its most lopsided win of the season against Oklahoma’s Washington on Friday in Shreveport, La. Kellen Mond threw for three touchdowns in the Ascenders’ 42-7 win and the quarterback is quietly putting together a season comparable to Shea Patterson’s a year ago. He’s thrown for eight touchdowns without an interception while leading Manatee County in passing yards.
This week: vs. Washington D.C. St. John’s, 7 p.m. Saturday
2. (3) Saint Stephen’s, 2-1, 44
The Falcons erased a 17-point deficit Friday in Clearwater to rally for a 27-24 win against Calvary Christian. SSES was impressive in non-division play and has its first Sunshine State Athletic Conference Coral Bay division game Friday against Bradenton Christian. It will be the first meeting between the Bradenton rivals since 2010.
This week: vs. Bradenton Christian, 7:30 p.m.
3. (2) Cardinal Mooney, 1-1, 40
Despite a 14-7 loss to Tampa Berkeley Prep, the Cougars seem much improved in 2016. Mooney reached the postseason despite only two regular-season wins a year ago and with one blowout and a narrow road loss to one of the best teams in Class 3A, Cardinal Mooney seems destined to eclipse that number this season.
This week: at Largo Indian Rocks Christian, 7:30 p.m.
4. (4) Out-of-Door Academy, 1-2, 22
ODA took a step back following a blowout win against St. Petersburg Keswick Christian in Week 2. Auburndale Jordan Christian Prep, a team in only its second year of varsity play, handled the Thunder pretty soundly, 29-10. ODA still enters the week atop the Sunshine State Athletic Conference’s Coral Bay division, but that could change against playoff-hopeful St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep.
This week: at St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep, 7 p.m.
5. (5) Bradenton Christian, 0-2, 12
The last time the Panthers played Saint Stephen’s in 2010, BCS cruised to a 25-point win. Things are different now with the Falcons off to a strong start and BCS stumbling out of the gate. Friday, however, does present a chance for the Panthers to make a statement in their first ever Sunshine State Athletic Conference game.
This week: at Saint Stephen’s, 7:30 p.m.
Voters: Herald sports reporters Jason Dill, David Wilson, Alan Dell; sports correspondent Chad Brockhoff; sports editor Mark Lawrence; Sunday news editor Alan Bellittera.
Jason Dill and David Wilson