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, 6-1, 50 points (5)
With their backs against the wall, the Pirates thrived at Palmetto last week. A 35-0 victory sees Braden River nearing a playoff berth, which can be clinched in Friday’s homecoming game against Sarasota. QB Louis Colosimo tossed three TDs with 291 passing yards for a Braden River offense that’s exploded in the passing game the last two weeks.
This week: vs. Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.
2. (2) Manatee, 5-3, 40
The Hurricanes still need help to win another district title, but last week’s trip to Hillsborough County yielded a six-TD game from QB A.J. Colagiovanni and little worry about the result. Manatee stays on the road to Lithia this week and can clinch a playoff berth with a win. A loss and the Canes might miss the postseason for the first time since 2008.
This week: at Lithia Newsome, 7:30 p.m.
3. (3) Palmetto, 6-2, 30
The Tigers were overpowered against the area’s No. 1-ranked team, Braden River, last Friday. Still, Palmetto controls its playoff fate with another home game this week. State-ranked Venice isn’t the easiest opponent, but a Palmetto victory coupled with a Braden River win would set up a three-way tiebreaker.
This week: vs. Venice, 7:30 p.m.
4. (4) Southeast, 3-4, 20
A disappointing loss to Wauchula Hardee has Southeast fighting for postseason survival. Among the four public schools in playoff scenarios this week, the Seminoles are in the simplest one: win and they’re in.
This week: vs. Sarasota Booker, 7:30 p.m.
5. (5) Lakewood Ranch, 0-7, 9
A winless season got even uglier when Venice rolled into town to smoke the Mustangs 62-0. Indians RB Matt Laroche was unstoppable (269 rushing yards, four TDs). But the silver lining is this week’s opponent provides the best chance at a district victory.
This week: vs. North Port, 7:30 p.m.
6. (6) Bayshore, 0-7, 6
We won’t know who would win the battle for the bottom of the public school rankings, because Hurricane Hermine wiped out the Bruins shot at a win against Lakewood Ranch. What we learned last week was there’s no quit in the Bruins. QB Ryan O’Neill threw two fourth-quarter TDs to pull Bayshore within one score of erasing a 22-point deficit at Arcadia DeSoto.
This week: vs. Englewood Lemon Bay, 7:30 p.m.
1. (1) IMG Academy, 7-0, 50 (5)
It wasn’t easy or pretty, but the Ascenders kept their No. 2 national ranking and unbeaten season intact in Jacksonville last Friday. Playing before a nationally televised audience, QB Kellen Mond ran for three second-half TDs to help IMG overcome a halftime deficit.
This week: at Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), 10:30 p.m.
2. (2) Cardinal Mooney, 7-1, 40
The Cougars’ strong season continued with last Thursday’s visit to Lakeland against a Class 2A ranked team, Victory Christian. Mooney walked away with a three-point win as RB Bryce Williams burst through the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season after 145 yards last week. Already a playoff team, the Cougars can win a district title against rival Clearwater Central Catholic this week.
This week: vs. Clearwater Central Catholic, 7 p.m.
3. (3) Saint Stephen’s, 7-1, 30
A quick start gave the Falcons some breathing room last Thursday, before Seffner Christian stormed back. Peyton Vining’s game-saving tackle paved the way for QB Fred Billy’s rushing TD late that sealed a victory. Saint Stephen’s now turns its attention to this week’s Sunshine State Athletic Conference playoff opener.
This week: vs. Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin, 7 p.m.
4. (4) Bradenton Christian, 3-4, 20
History awaits the Panthers this week with the program’s first playoff game. But before they trek to Jacksonville, there was a savoring end to the regular season. The Panthers forced six turnovers and blocked six punts in routing St. Pete Canterbury 46-6 last week.
This week: at Jacksonville Christ’s Church Academy, 7 p.m.
5. (5) Out-of-Door Academy, 1-7, 10
The Thunder’s SSAC season came to a close last week, when they ran into the No. 1 seed for the Coastal League playoffs, Windermere Prep. ODA managed 14 points, which is a silver lining against a Windermere Prep club that has rolled over teams all year. ODA, though, gets another home game with the late-scheduled matchup with an unbeaten from Florida’s 8-man football league.
This week: vs. Vero Beach Master’s Academy, 7 p.m.
Voters: Herald sports reporters Jason Dill, David Wilson; sports correspondent Chad Brockhoff; sports editor Mark Lawrence; Sunday news editor Alan Bellittera.