High School Sports

Prep football | Week 9 preview capsules

Southeast (1-6, 1-1 Class 5A-District 13) at Wauchula Hardee (3-4, 0-2)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Online: highschoolcube.com

The scoop: Southeast blew a chance to take sole possession of first place in the district last week, so the Seminoles are fighting for their playoff lives. But Southeast controls its destiny. If the Noles defeat Hardee this week and Booker next week, they will be in the playoffs. ... Nothing has come easily for the Noles, who have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with turnovers and poor decisions and have gotten some bad luck along the way. They were in position to win their last three games, including last week's overtime loss to DeSoto, but came up short. ... James Thomas has proven to be solid at quarterback, and Landon Arsenault is turning into one of the area's best receivers with his acrobatic catches. ... Bayshore shocked Hardee on the road last week, so Southeast can ask why not us? This would be a perfect time for the Noles to stop beating themselves. Hardee has been on a roller coaster all season, and the Wildcats are unpredictable. This is Custer's last stand for Southeast.

Prediction: Southeast 21, Hardee 20.

Palmetto (2-4, 2-0 Class 7A-District 10) at Sarasota (2-5, 1-1)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Online: palmettohighsports.com

The scoop: The Tigers would lock up their fifth straight playoff berth with a win. ... Dearius Washington is second in the area in catches (29). ... Brad Wyatt has 7 1/2 sacks. ... The Tigers have outscored their first two district opponents 52-7. ... Sarasota gave up 171 points during its four-game losing streak before beating North Port last week. ... Justin Austin had 173 yards of offense last week against the Bobcats, and QB Xakari Hawkins threw for 180 yards.

Prediction: Palmetto 35, Sarasota 7.

Booker (3-3, 1-1 Class 5A-District 13) at Bayshore (1-5, 1-2)

When: 7:30 p.m.

On the air: WPPR, 1490-AM

The scoop: The Tornadoes were idle last week, while Bayshore went into Wauchula to knock off Hardee and make this a critical district game. ... Booker hasn't fared well on the road, generating a 1-3 record away from Tornado Alley. However, two of those defeats came against district leader Arcadia DeSoto and Tampa Berkeley Prep, which is 6-1. ... The Bruins' 17-14 victory at Hardee was a special treat for their fans, because the playoff chase is still within reach. Bayshore hasn't made the postseason in nine seasons. That drought can end with a victory Friday and some help as the Bruins are playing their final district game. ... Bayshore's Chase Richardson, the program's third quarterback this season, tallied the winning score last week, and the Bruins collected a bevy of turnovers to beat the Wildcats. ... They'll need another A-plus effort to beat Booker.

Prediction: Booker 21, Bayshore 14.

Braden River (6-0, 2-0 Class 7A-District 10) at North Port (1-7, 0-3)

When: 7:30 p.m.

The scoop: A victory coupled with a Palmetto win at Sarasota would set up a showdown next week with the Tigers for the 7A-10 title. ... On paper, North Port doesn't appear it can offer much resistance. It has been a disappointing season for the Bobcats that started when they lost talented quarterback Brennan Simms, who transferred to Punta Gorda Charlotte. ... Braden River has the top-ranked offense and defense in the district with 210 points while allowing 56 points (9.3 points per game). ... North Port has the most porous defense, allowing 254 points while scoring just 107. ... Braden River's Jacob Huesman has the highest quarterback rating in the area thanks to 10 TD passes and one interception while throwing for an area-high 1,058 yards. ... The Pirates have a talented receiving corps led by Justin Ross and Travis Williams. They effectively run the ball by committee, led by Carlos Crawford along with Jaylin Austin and Raymond Thomas comprising a trio that has combined for 15 TDs. Ronnie McClellan leads the defense with 43 tackles and has two sacks. Jimiah Albritton has 38 tackles and 1.5 sacks. ... Even if Pirates are caught looking ahead, it doesn't seem they can lose this one. But there is a reason you play the game.

Prediction: Braden River 42, North Port 7.

Lakewood Ranch (3-3) at Riverview (3-4)

When: 7:30 p.m.

The scoop: Lakewood Ranch is basically playing for pride after its crushing district loss to Palmetto last week. The Mustangs' only chance for a playoff berth would be if Palmetto lost its next two district games and Lakewood Ranch would have to beat Sarasota. It's possible, but unlikely. ... The seniors, led by three-year starting quarterback Chad Rex, would like to finish their careers with a winning season not to mention three straight victories. .... Ranch is scoring and giving up 20.7 points per game. ... The Mustangs struggled against a quick Palmetto squad last week, but the playing field should be more level against Riverview. ... Justin Fischer is having a solid season with 472 yards rushing (6.1 ppg) and Wanley Desir leads the Ranch defense. The Rams' production could depend on health of running back and USF commit Karan Higdon, who has 565 yards (5.9-yard average) and six touchdowns.

Prediction: Lakewood Ranch 24, Riverview 21.

Fort Myers Southwest Florida Christian (3-3) at Bradenton Christian (4-4)

When: 7:30 p.m.

The scoop: After losing three straight, the Kings have righted the ship with back-to-back victories during which they've outscored the opposition 82-7. ... The key to Southwest Florida Christian's recent surge is the rushing attack, which has produced a gaudy 807 yards combined the past two weeks. ... Tristian Upton (11 carries, 160 rushing yards, four TDs) and Terrance de Avila (11 carries, 153 rushing yards, two TDs) led last week's charge. ... This is Bradenton Christian's homecoming game and final home contest. The school will dedicate the field to former superintendent Dan van der Kooy at 7 p.m. Van der Kooy served 23 years as BCS principal and superintendent. ... BCS already has been eliminated from playoff contention, and this is a non-district game. ... The Panthers have an offensive weapon in Zach Cooper, who can crack the 1,000 rushing yard plateau with a big game this week. ... Cooper has 891 rushing yards, which ranks second in the area, and has 10 TDs on the ground. ... BCS ranks dead last in the area with 216.6 rushing yards allowed per game.

Prediction: Fort Myers Southwest Florida Christian 35, BCS 30.

Saint Stephen's (5-3) at Out-of-Door Academy (2-5)

When: 7 p.m.

The scoop: The Falcons go to East Sarasota County for this showdown for the Headmaster's Cup. ... Saint Stephen's snapped a six-game losing streak to ODA last year by blanking the youthful Thunder 20-0. ... ODA is still in a rebuilding phase, while Saint Stephen's has a deadly weapon in QB Fred Billy. ... The versatile signal-caller has accounted for 11 TDs, five coming via the ground. ... The Thunder were anemic in last week's district meeting with Cardinal Mooney. ODA couldn't slow down the Cougars' offense, which threw the ball all over the field en route to a 64-0 victory that featured a running clock in the second half. ... Austin Hoppe was under center last week, but the playmaker was stifled by a suffocating Mooney defense as the Thunder lost for the fourth straight game.

Prediction: Saint Stephen's 14, ODA 10.

Cardinal Mooney (6-1) at Lakeland Victory Christian (6-1)

When: 7 p.m.

On the air: WSRQ, 98.9-FM, 106.9-FM, 1220-AM

Online: sarasotatalkradio.com

The scoop: This is an intriguing non-district matchup between teams that have already clinched playoff berths. ... The Storm won their second consecutive Class 2A-District 4 title with last week's 37-7 victory over Winter Garden Foundation Academy. ... The Cougars blitzed Out-of-Door Academy 64-0 last week in its Class 3A-District 6 opener. Cardinal Mooney will finish at least second in the three-team district and will host Fort Myers Bishop Verot to determine the champion next week. ... Victory Christian lost most of its top players from last season's state runner-up squad, but quarterback Caleb Lewis came back and got a big weapon in transfer A.J. Harper, the son of former Dallas Cowboys star Alvin Harper. Linebacker Cecil Cherry transferred over from Frostproof to anchor the defense. ... Cardinal Mooney quarterback Reese Vita threw three touchdown passes last week. He has 37 career scoring strikes, the most in school history. ... After last week's shutout, the Cougars defense ranks atop the area in scoring defense (47 points) and total defense (139.9 yards per game). ... The Storm and Cougars have one common opponent: St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut. Victory Christian defeated the Bluejackets 35-12 in the season opener, and the Cougars claimed a 20-13 victory the next week.

-- Capsules by John Lembo, Alan Dell and Jason Dill, Herald sports writers

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