The Cougars found a recipe for success last week and plan to keep cooking against the undefeated Stingrays.
COVID-19 has forced another scheduling switcheroo within the Plant City area, but this one’s probably better for Durant fans on the official guest list.
Since Kathleen’s football team has been forced to quarantine for two weeks, the Cougars are no longer heading to that corner of Lakeland this week. Durant will instead host undefeated Sumner on Friday night in a matchup that could be favorable for the surging Cougars.
Durant’s coming into this game with momentum from last week’s 27-13 win over East Bay, which the Cougars pulled off without several of its starters on offense and senior Aashton Kirkland, a defensive back by trade, at quarterback. There was no selfishness whatsoever in the Cougars’ attack: four different players (Andre Givens, Jeremiah Gines, Alex Daley and Joshua Cannon) scored touchdowns for the home team and Kirkland kept a cool head leading the offense after the Indians cut Durant’s lead to one point, 14-13, to start the second half.
Durant allowed just 13 points for the second week in a row and the defense was able to keep East Bay’s offense contained for much of the game. The Cougars held quarterback Nathan Carter to 72 passing yards on nine completions (19 attempts), one touchdown and one interception. East Bay’s only other touchdown was an 80-yard kickoff return by Malachi Drayton at the start of the third quarter.
This looks like the toughest test yet for the Sumner Stingrays, who beat Strawberry Crest 22-6 in Dover last week.
Though Sumner does have a 3-0 record in its inaugural season, there’s one big catch: those three opponents (Spoto, Blake and Crest) have a combined record of 1-8 this season and only Spoto, which got a 21-6 win over Freedom on Sept. 17, has scored more than 14 points in a game.
Last week’s 22-6 final score also doesn’t reflect how closely the Chargers played the Stingrays. Crest’s offense actually out-gained Sumner’s (145 total yards vs. Sumner’s 136) and the defense took away the Stingrays’ passing game. The Chargers held quarterback Jason Rivera to five completions for 29 yards and a pick on 11 attempts, though Rivera did gain 32 yards and a touchdown running the ball.
The one thing Durant absolutely cannot do at any point in the game is get careless on offense. Sumner’s defense has done an excellent job at both generating turnovers and scoring points with them. Two of the Stingrays’ three touchdowns last week were scoop-and-score plays — one forced fumble after a handoff, one strip sack — and they also turned a fumble into six points against Spoto.
Friday’s kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and if you can’t go to the game, you can watch online at NFHSNetwork.com.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
vs. Bloomingdale, 7:30 p.m.
Last week, the Plant City Raiders (1-1) got to rest up physically and get some extra prep work done for tomorrow night’s tough customer, the Bloomingdale Bulls.
The Bulls (2-0) came off of a bye week of their own to face Tampa Bay Tech last week and escaped with a 25-22 win thanks to some late-game heroics from wideout Agiye Hall. Bloomingdale hasn’t been winning games decisively — their two wins have come by a total of four points — but getting those close wins over the likes of Armwood and Tech is still good enough to put Hillsborough County on notice. Plant City (1-1) does have the talent to hang with the Bulls on all sides of the ball, but it will have to clean up the turnovers and other mistakes that ultimately led to their loss against Manatee.
vs. Lakeland, 7:30 p.m.
Last week, the Strawberry Crest Chargers put up a good fight against Sumner but eventually lost, 22-6, thanks in large part to a pair of fumbles recovered by the Stingrays and returned for touchdowns. The Chargers did put up 131 rushing yards in the game and Miles Jones scored on a nice 30-yard run in the third quarter to end their scoring drought, though.
The Chargers (0-3) now have a much more difficult matchup with Lakeland (1-0) coming to Dover tomorrow night. Last week, the Dreadnaughts finally got to open their season at home with Lake Gibson and escaped with a 23-22 win over the Braves thanks to a nine-point effort in the fourth quarter. Their strategy last Friday night was pretty simple: run the dang ball. Lakeland only attempted five passes (completing one to Reggie Kellum) and split 40 touches on the ground between five players. Three of them ran for more than 100 yards: quarterback Mason Martin (118 yards), Tayler Gant (120 yards) and Kellum (127 yards) chipped in most of the Dreadnaughts’ 407 total rushing yards. Crest can expect more of the same Friday night.
IN OTHER NEWS
The FHSAA released its 2020 football classification assignments on Monday, several weeks after the deadline to opt in to the state series passed. All three Plant City-area schools are now in Class 7A-Region 3 along with Armwood, Bartow, Bloomingdale, East Bay, East Lake, George Jenkins, Kathleen, Lakeland, Leto, Pinellas Park, Sickles, Tampa Bay Tech and Winter Haven. J.C. Carnahan of the Orlando Sentinel tweeted Monday that regional tournament matchups (which will be determined by blind draw) should be released next week.