The undefeated Dreadnaughts visit the Raiders this Friday night.
An old rivalry is set to be renewed this Friday night at 1 Raider Place.
Back in the day, as older Plant City Raider fans will tell you, PCHS versus Lakeland on either team’s home field was must-see stuff. In an era before Strawberry Crest and Durant, folks remember, that was a good, old-fashioned crosstown rivalry. But that rivalry was affected by reshuffling and growth to the point where it became a thing of the past — the Raiders and Dreadnaughts last played each other on Oct. 29, 2004, before this year’s high school freshmen were born. That was a 49-7 win for a Lakeland team with future NCAA champions and pros Chris Rainey, Mike Pouncey and Maurkice Pouncey, just getting started.
Not much has changed in theory for Lakeland. That’s still a program playing at a championship level with a wealth of blue chip college recruits rostered. Plant City, meanwhile, is coming off of one of the best seasons in program history and is looking to turn some more heads en route to another playoff appearance.
One way to look at Friday’s game is as the toughest test the Raiders will face all season. With Tampa Bay Tech, Armwood and Jesuit on the schedule, that says a lot. There are still good teams left for Plant City to play after this week, but no game’s going to be as hard as this district opener.
In a role reversal from last week, where Gaither focused heavily on trying to beat the Raiders with Tony Bartalo’s arm, Lakeland’s offense starts from the ground up. Running back Demarckus Bowman, who is committed to play for Clemson next year, has only needed 35 carries to rack up 462 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Last week, Bowman ran 15 times for 226 yards and two touchdowns against a George Jenkins team that fared much better than most against LHS. The Dreadnaughts ran for 263 yards and four touchdowns the prior week against American Collegiate Academy. Bowman, Jha’kari Martin, Reggie Kellum and Zaire Davis each chipped in a touchdown and Kellum led the group with 116 yards. Bowman also caught a 32-yard touchdown pass in the game.
Lakeland did not have stats for last week’s win against George Jenkins recorded on MaxPreps.com at press time, but the Dreadnaughts picked up a 38-6 win fueled largely by the special teams unit making big plays in the second half. Lakeland held a 12-6 lead at halftime but blew the game wide open in the third quarter by returning a blocked punt for a touchdown and then scoring on a punt return shortly afterward.
Plant City held Gaither to just 3.2 yards per carry and 58 total rushing yards last Saturday and has kept most running backs it’s faced in check in 2019, which should inspire some more confidence in the front seven. Only two backs have gained more than 30 yards against the Raiders: Jesuit’s Ricky Parks (15 touches, 91 yards, one touchdown) and Tech’s Osmanis Aguilera (31 touches, 123 yards, three touchdowns). The Raiders give up an average of 106 rushing yards per game, and they’ve also been adept at getting to the quarterback with eight sacks on the year.
Lakeland won’t make it easy for Plant City’s offense to get going, but the Raiders might try to keep running with what worked last week. Moving Mario Williams to the outside and letting Reagan Ealy work out of the slot resulted in 220 of Plant City’s 257 receiving yards and Ealy added a touchdown catch to the mix. If Lakeland can do to the run game what Gaither did — the Cowboys held Zamir’ Knighten to 10 yards on eight carries, and held Makenzie Kennedy to 11 yards and one score on 11 touches — then the Raiders will need to get Williams and Ealy open as much as possible.
OTHER AREA FOOTBALL ACTION
vs. Bloomingdale, 7:30 p.m.
The Durant Cougars now own the best overall record of all Plant City-area teams after Monday’s 27-6 win at Blake, which was called early due to bad weather that resulted in several delays.
As good as the win was for the offense, which now averages exactly 27 points per game, it was even more dominant for the Durant defense. The Cougars racked up 61 tackles (eight for a loss), three sacks for a loss of 31 yards and three fumble recoveries.
Durant will get ready for next week’s Alafia River Rivalry game at Newsome with Friday’s home game against Bloomingdale. The Bulls followed up their 28-13 season-opening win over Newsome with an early bye week, followed by last Saturday’s 28-0 shutout loss to Armwood. Though it was a good look for Bloomingdale’s run defense, which gave up two touchdowns but also just 87 yards on 31 total touches, Hawks quarterbacks Cam’ron Ransom and Hunter Helton combined to complete 13 of 19 pass attempts, throw for 267 yards (212 from Ransom) and complete two touchdown passes (both Ransom’s) with no interceptions.
Bloomingdale did not enter stats on MaxPreps.com for last week’s game but did for its Week 1 win over Newsome. True to form, the Bulls favored the run (26 plays for 237 yards and three scores) and were led by shifty senior Dominic Gonnella’s 170 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries. Lance Alderson completed seven of 15 pass attempts for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Friday’s game will be Bloomingdale’s first on the road of 2019.
vs. Kathleen, 7:30 p.m.
Also hosting a Friday night home game is Strawberry Crest, which will be fresh off of a bye week and ready to go against the visiting Kathleen Red Devils.
Kathleen, which has yet to win a game in 2019, is coming off of a 19-9 loss to Ridge Community that also proved to be the lowest score its defense has allowed thus far. Kathleen has not submitted any game or season stats online, but Ridge pounded the Red Devils to the tune of 383 rushing yards and three total touchdowns courtesy of quarterback Keymari Odum, who himself gained 218 of those rushing yards.
The Red Devils have now given up at least 255 rushing yards in all three of their games. That’s probably music to the ears of the Chargers, who have been vocal about committing to the run under new head coach Phillip Prior. The Chargers have called almost twice as many running plays as passing plays and have gained 283 yards and four touchdowns through two games. Friday’s matchup looks like it could be big for SCHS rushing leader Jhadin McKinnie, who has 102 rushing yards and touchdowns this season.
If Crest can at least hit a field goal against Kathleen, the 2019 Chargers will have scored more points through three games than the 2018 Chargers did in 10 games (43 points).