By STEVE JACKSON
All five South Shore high school football teams jump back into action under the lights this Friday, Oct. 27, with no official word yet on who is in and who is out for the post-season playoffs. This week and next Friday, Nov. 3, are the last two games for the regular season.
Sumner High is favored for a post-season trip. The Stingrays had a game off last week. It would be an upset if Sumner lost either one of its next two: Newsome High this week and at Middleton High of Tampa next Friday. The powerful 7-1 Stingrays of Coach Alonzo Ashwood have their prime star, quarterback and safety Greg Smith III, back in the saddle.
The Riverview Sharks, now at 7-1 after losing to Sumner two weeks ago, bounced back under Head Coach Tony Rodriquez to beat Strawberry Crest. The 2023 schedule gets even more difficult for the Sharks as they host tough 7-2 Durant this Friday for Riverview’s homecoming and a crucial match in 4M-District 7 league play. Riverview ends the regular season Nov. 3 versus 2-6 Steinbrenner at Riverview. The Sharks are 4-8 against Durant, overall, with Riverview’s losing last season to Durant 30-26. Riverview also lost last year to Steinbrenner, 49-6, making the Sharks winless in seven games overall versus Steinbrenner.
The Sharks rolled over Strawberry Crest, 35-17, in a decisive win sparked by three touchdowns by the Riverview juggernaut defense. Junior running back Mason Burris tacked on a 12-yard dash to the end zone in the third quarter. The other non-defensive Sharks TD came with an eight-yard scoring reception in the second quarter to junior receiver Isaiah Washington to put Riverview in the driver’s seat at the half, 21-3.
Riverview’s defense put three sixes on the scoreboard against Strawberry Crest visiting from Dover. The first Riverview score came on a senior Marcus Carey’s pick-six interception for 68 yards after the visitors had put an early 3-0 FG lead on the board. In the second quarter Shark Junior Stephane Norceide found an SC fumble and rambled 42-yards for pay dirt.
Riverview senior JJ Johnston returned an SC punt 56 yards for a TD in the third quarter to push the Sharks out to a 28-10 commanding lead. Burris then ended the Riverview scoring with his third quarter burst into the end zone. Dependable placekicker junior Warren Shriver put a positive boot to all five PATs to make Riverview the dominant winner.
In addition to the great night for the supporting role on both sides of the ball, Riverview received its usual good job from two offensive stalwarts: running back senior Dontarious “Rico” Shoats and senior quarterback Aaron Turner. Stat-wise, Shoats picked up 73 yards on 17 carries with a long run of 56 yards. Turner hit for eight of ten passes for 85 yards and a TD. Sharks junior receiver Julian Arthurs snared a pair for 56 yards, and senior Johnny Mathis grabbed two for 18 yards. The tenacious all-around Sharks defense was led by senior Landon Johnson, in on six tackles and two sacks. Riverview junior Randall Guzman also was busy on defense as he participated in six tackles.
Durant High travels to Riverview this Friday after the Cougars were upset 35-21 by 3-4 Gaither High last week.
In a big rivalry clash this Friday evening, Spoto takes its now 1-7 record to Ruskin to combat the 2-7 Lennard Longhorns.
Last week the Spoto Spartans beat 30-26 Brandon High, now 2-6, for the Spartans first win of the 2023 season. Spoto is now 6-1 overall against Brandon. The Spartans are 10-3 overall versus Lennard. The Longhorns are coming off a bye-week after losing to East Bay High two weeks ago.
Spoto Head Coach Keith Chattin knows his offensive bellwether is sensational junior Z’orey Cotton. The fleet-footed 5-8, 170 lb. Cotton could not be contained by Brandon. And Cotton proved the difference in the Spoto victory with 155 yards rushing, his longest jaunt totaling 90 yards. The Spartans also have running back junior 5-8, 175 lb. Cam White to help with the Spoto rush attack. White bashed through the line for 82 yards on the ground in the Brandon victory. Although sophomore QB Nathan Richardson hit only two of 17 passes in the Brandon win, the stocky, experienced sophomore is ready to run or to throw against Lennard to augment both Cotton and White. Richardson connected on a 34-yard TD toss to sophomore Jesse Harden in Spoto’s initial win of this season. Richardson’s only other completion was for 18 yards to Cotton.
The Spoto defense was led over Brandon by defensive efforts of senior Justin Walters, who participated in nine tackles. Bolstering the defensive thump for Spoto were junior Kaiel Stewart, in on seven stops; soph Elijah Vega, credited with eight tackles; and juniors Tavion Taylor and Marquis Green, with six tackles each, along with a bevy of other defensive Spartans who held Brandon at bay.
The Lennard Longhorns, presently at 2-7, take on the Spoto & Z’orey Cotton challenge this Friday to close out the Horns’ regular home season. Next Friday powerful Armwood High is hosting Lennard at Seffner. First-year Horns’ Head Coach KB Belton has been working Lennard since the 27-17 loss to East Bay High two weeks ago in an attempt to reach the three-win mark.
Meanwhile, the oldest high school in the South Shore, East Bay High, took a massive whipping, 42-0, from the 6-2 Berkeley High Buccaneers, who visited EB from Tampa last Friday. The Indians remain a dark horse in the playoff hunt, which Indians’ Head Coach Mike Gottman was looking to repeat again this season before the 6-2 Berkeley Prep meltdown.
The trouncing from Berkeley Prep was never in doubt. BP tallied 14 in the first quarter and made it 21-0 at the half. The Buccaneers added 14 in the third quarter and put an end to East Bay’s desperate hopes with seven points in the final stanza. Now the Indians host 2-7 Bloomingdale Friday evening in a bid to get back on the winning trail. East Bay, 6-2, closes the regular season at 2-6 King High in Tampa Nov. 3.