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, 5-1, 50 points (5)
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Even with a loss, Braden River is still a unanimous pick for the top spot this week. And that’s because the Pirates’ trip to Venice produced an instant classic with an emerging star in QB Louis Colosimo (469 passing yards, four TDs) when the running game was slowed down. The narrow defeat could have gone either way, but another loss this week knocks Braden River from playoff contention.
This week: at Palmetto, 7:30 p.m.
2. (2) Manatee, 4-3, 36
The Hurricanes are holding onto No. 2 by a close margin after their first loss in 11 years to Sarasota Riverview. That 42-33 setback has Manatee in a three-way tie atop the Class 8A-District 6 standings. And despite the team’s defensive woes at times, this week’s opponent has scored just 55 points in four district games.
This week: at Riverview (Hillsborough), 7:30 p.m.
3. (3) Palmetto, 6-1, 34
The two-week gauntlet to determine its playoff fate begins Friday when Palmetto hosts Braden River. This year’s matchup is different than the last two seasons when the Pirates entered unbeaten. This season gives Palmetto a chance to eliminate Braden River from the playoff picture and set up a district title game against Venice in Week 10. A stout defense, which saw Desmine Ross pick off two passes, led the 35-0 victory over North Port last Friday.
This week: vs. Braden River, 7:30 p.m.
4. (4) Southeast, 3-3, 20
The Seminoles control their own playoff destiny and can punch a postseason ticket with a victory over Wauchula Hardee this week coupled with a Sarasota Booker loss. QB Alex Taylor’s 19-yard TD pass to Tyler Stevenson iced the Noles’ come-from-behind win at Englewood Lemon Bay. A strong defensive outing with two safeties coupled with Terrance Pryor’s kick return TD got Southeast in gear.
This week: vs. Wauchula Hardee, 7:30 p.m.
5. (5) Lakewood Ranch, 0-6, 10
Despite remaining winless, there are positives to take away from last week’s defeat. The defense held Sarasota to just seven points and has played pretty well as of late. The defense hasn’t allowed more than 30 points since Week 4. Now the offense needs to get going. That unit hasn’t surpassed seven points in a game this season. And state-ranked Venice isn’t the antidote this week.
This week: vs. Venice, 7:30 p.m.
6. (6) Bayshore, 0-6, 5
With last Friday’s loss to district unbeaten Wauchula Hardee, the Bruins assured themselves of another losing season. Bayshore hasn’t had a winning season since 2003. The Bruins’ last two district opponents are a combined 2-12, so there’s hope to get some confidence-boosting wins heading into the offseason.
This week: at Arcadia DeSoto, 7:30 p.m.
1. (1) IMG Academy, 6-0, 50 (5)
After missing two weeks of action, the Ascenders dusted off the top-ranked Class 3A team, West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy. That 38-0 win was due, in part, to QB Kellen Mond, who set the program record for TDs in a season. Now he’ll get a chance to shine on national TV when IMG heads to Jacksonville Trinity Christian.
This week: at Jacksonville Trinity Christian, 7:30 p.m.
2. (2) Cardinal Mooney, 6-1, 40
The Cougars clinched back-to-back postseason berths under head coach Drew Lascari with last week’s 38-6 win over St. Petersburg Catholic. However, an ugly end to the game left benches clearing and punches thrown. RB Bryce Williams continued his torrid performances, racking up 148 rushing yards on 17 carries.
This week: at Lakeland Victory Christian, 6:30 p.m.
3. (3) Saint Stephen’s, 6-1, 30
The program’s first division title came last Friday when the Falcons ran wild on St. Petersburg Shorecrest. The offense continued its running ways with Chase Brown rushing for 213 yards on just six carries and three TDs. Now the Falcons get Seffner Christian before beginning the SSAC playoffs in two weeks.
This week: vs. Seffner Christian, 7 p.m., Thursday
4. (4) Bradenton Christian, 2-4, 20
A huge victory last Friday became even bigger following the Panthers’ make-up with Shorecrest on Monday. The game was originally postponed due to Hurricane Hermine, and the two locked up for a one-quarter tiebreaker to decide the Coral Bay Division’s second playoff team. BCS won 9-7 for its first playoff berth.
This week: at St. Petersburg Canterbury, 7 p.m.
5. (5) Out-of-Door Academy, 1-6, 10
A woeful year for the Thunder comes to a close this week. ODA won’t participate in next week’s SSAC playoffs and finishes the season this Friday at Windermere Prep, which is the No. 1 seed for the SSAC’s Coastal League portion of the playoffs.
This week: at Windermere Prep, 7 p.m.
Voters: Herald sports reporters Jason Dill, David Wilson, Alan Dell; sports correspondent Chad Brockhoff; Sunday news editor Alan Bellittera.