The 2019 high school football season got off to an uneven start last week.
First, let’s start with the good.
While Clearwater’s impressive 28-18 home win over Palm Bay Heritage displayed how the Tornadoes are again one of Pinellas County’s best, it’s hard to pass up what went down in St. Petersburg. Dunedin, once in the county’s top tier not that long ago, finally put an end to its frustrating run of futility. The Falcons, playing as an independent this season, went to Keswick Christian and won for the first time since Oct. 10, 2014. A 24-point second quarter fueled Dunedin’s 44-23 victory and put the 43-game losing streak to bed.
Then there was the not-so-good.
Clearwater and Dunedin were North County’s lone public-school winners Friday to go along with private program Calvary Christian. East Lake, Palm Harbor University and Tarpon Springs fell to 0-1, as did Clearwater Central Catholic after losing against Berkeley Prep for the first time since 2011.
Clearwater (1-0) at East Lake (0-1)
East Lake showed signs that good things could be coming this season, but surrendering too many big plays doomed the Eagles last week at Nature Coast Tech.
Loose ends need to be addressed quickly to avoid falling to 0-2. Clearwater comes to town brimming with confidence after its win over Heritage.
Despite taking over as North Pinellas’ most-successful team in recent years, Clearwater still has East Lake issues. The Tornadoes’ only win over the Eagles in the past 10 seasons came in 2016. Quarterback Rent Montie and Clearwater head into Friday night as a favorite but the team has to prove it’s a step above on the field.
Osceola (1-0) at Dunedin (1-0)
Osceola at Dunedin — a battle of unbeatens.
It’s been a while since those words could be uttered. Osceola went to New Port Richey and dropped Gulf 40-0, setting up a showdown to see which rebuild is further along.
The teams played a tight game last year when Osceola picked up a 21-13 win at home —one of two victories on the season. A similar type of game should be expected, but who walks away 2-0 is up in the air.
Land O’ Lakes at Countryside (0-0)
Land O’ Lakes still hadn’t finished its season opener as of press time. The Gators’ game against Pasco was suspended due to electrical problems with the stadium’s lights.
Land O’ Lakes trailed the Pirates 13-0 when the game was called and it was scheduled to be completed Monday night.
Countryside didn’t suit up last week, opening the year with a bye. The Cougars are coming off back-to-back 6-4 seasons, but the playoffs remain elusive. C-Side’s last foray into the postseason came in 2015.
Graduation sapped the Cougars of much of its offensive production from 2018, but they do have a decent amount of returning experience with more than 40 upperclassmen on the roster.
A win over Land O’ Lakes will give the Cougars a solid shot at starting 4-0 before a Sept. 27 showdown with Class 6A District 7 foe Largo.
Seminole (0-0) at Palm Harbor University (0-1)
Last Friday night was not a great one for PHU, but it wasn’t terrible, either.
The rebuilding Hurricanes lost their opener 13-10 at Dixie Hollins. Typically, that would be a pretty humbling defeat. The Rebels, however, are turning things around under Coach Dale Caparaso. Dixie Hollins’ 4-6 record was its best since winning four games in 2008.
Seminole has been on a similar level as Dixie and PHU for a number of years and the Warhawks open their season Friday against the Hurricanes.
After being shutout in the first half last week, PHU managed to put together a couple scoring drives in the third quarter. Coach Michael Mullaney is breaking in a sophomore quarterback in Gabriel Shaffer, so every rep is a beneficial learning experience.