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. (1) Braden River, 3-0, 50 points (5)
The Pirates started slow against archrival Lakewood Ranch last week, but pulled away with their patented running combo of Raymond Thomas (143 rushing yards last week) and Deshaun Fenwick (130 rushing yards last week) and a stout defense. Braden River shouldn’t have trouble, even on the road, against winless Leesburg, where Pirates head coach Curt Bradley was an assistant prior to leading Braden River.
This week: at Leesburg, 7:30 p.m.
2. (2) Manatee, 2-2, 40
The Hurricanes’ defense came with constant pressure to disrupt Tampa Alonso’s offense in last week’s Class 8A-District 6 opener. Manatee forced several turnovers, including three on downs, while shutting out the Ravens for the program’s 22nd straight district victory.
This week: Off
3. (3) Palmetto, 3-1, 30
Two defensive touchdowns keyed the Tigers’ third straight victory over Sarasota. That was a program first over the Sailors, and it kept the Tigers in line for a battle with Braden River and Venice next month for one of the two available playoff berths in Class 7A-District 11.
This week: at Bayshore, 7:30 p.m.
4. (4) Southeast, 1-2, 20
First-year QB Alex Taylor diced up Bayshore to the tune of 13 of 18 passing for 315 yards and three touchdowns. That sends the Seminoles into their bye week with optimism after the first victory — which doubled in importance as a district win as well — of the year.
This week: Off
5. (5) Lakewood Ranch, 0-3, 10
Lakewood Ranch’s run defense is allowing an average of 256 yards per game, worst in Manatee County. The Mustangs gave up 283 rushing yards to No. 1-ranked Braden River and must remedy it to generate wins. This week’s opponent, though, is run-heavy Land O’Lakes Sunlake, which averaging 190 yards per game on the ground.
This week: at Land O’Lakes Sunlake, 7:30 p.m.
6. (6) Bayshore, 0-2, 5
The Bruins were outmatched in last week’s Class 5A-District 11 opener, and saw Southeast High QB Alex Taylor carve up their defense. This week won’t get any easier against 7A Palmetto, which boasts a formidable defense and an offense that is continuing to improve.
This week: vs. Palmetto, 7:30 p.m.
1. (1) IMG Academy, 4-0, 50 (5)
Kellen Mond’s assault on the IMG record book continued during the Ascenders’ 35-14 win against St. John’s College from Washington, D.C. With three more touchdown passes, the quarterback has thrown for 11 touchdowns without an interception. The senior has eight games to throw for eight more touchdowns, which would break the program record set by Shea Patterson last year.
This week: vs. Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson, 7 p.m.
2. (3) Saint Stephen’s, 3-1, 38
The Falcons opened Sunshine State Athletic Conference Coral Bay division play with a lopsided 49-20 win against cross-town rival Bradenton Christian and continue to improve since dropping their season-opener to Community School of Naples last month. Quarterback Fred Billy continues to shine, ranking in the top five in Manatee County in both passing and rushing yards.
This week: Off
3. (2) Cardinal Mooney, 2-1, 32
With a 49-7 blowout of Largo Indian Rocks Christian on Friday, the Cougars have already matched their win total from a year ago. Mooney might be the most improved team in the area with an offense averaging 340 yards per game.
This week: at Englewood Lemon Bay, 7 p.m.
4. (4) Out-of-Door Academy, 1-3, 22
Out-of-Door’s playoff hopes took a major hit despite a solid showing in a 16-15 loss to St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep. In a Sunshine State Athletic Conference Coral Bay division loaded with high-powered offense, the Thunder separate themselves with a defense that caused three turnovers in the loss and is holding opponents to fewer than 70 passing yards per game.
This week: Off
5. (5) Bradenton Christian, 0-3, 12
The Panthers are going through some of the same issues they dealt with last year — a solid offense isn’t scoring quite enough to make up for its defensive deficiencies. Quarterback Dominick Otteni is quietly putting together another solid season, though, with 565 passing yards and 120 rushing yards through only three games.
This week: vs. Deltona Trinity Christian Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Voters: Herald sports reporters Jason Dill, David Wilson; sports correspondent Chad Brockhoff; sports editor Mark Lawrence; Sunday news editor Alan Bellittera.
Jason Dill and David Wilson