Coming into its homecoming matchup against Gibsonton East Bay, Tampa Hillsborough had generated a prolific 55 points per game during its previous three contests.
Led by Tarean Austin’s arm and an opportunistic defense paced by safety Terrence Mitchell, the Terriers stuck to their average, defeating East Bay 55-13 in the Class 4A, District 9 opener for both teams.
Hillsborough (4-1, 1-0) has won four games in a row, outscoring opponents 219-36 along the way.
Leading 14-0 in the second quarter after Austin touchdown passes to Rodney Johnson and Charles Lovett, Hillsborough watched East Bay cut that margin in half with a short touchdown run from quarterback Aaron Mills.
But the Terriers pulled away in the third quarter with 27 unanswered points, aided by a 79-yard punt return for a score by Lovett and a 55-yard blocked field goal return for a score by Gerald Pearson.
The East Bay field goal attempt was blocked by Mitchell, who also blocked a punt and caught a 51-yard pass. Austin, meanwhile, finished with 174 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Other key games
Fighting back from a 22-7 deficit, Tampa Sickles may have saved its season with a 31-28 overtime win against Gulfport Boca Ciega. Running back Cary White had 132 yards and sophomore kicker Andres Vasquez booted a 27-yard field goal during the extra period as Sickles (5-1) won a key game against a Class 5A, District 7 opponent.
Tampa Jefferson trailed St. Petersburg Lakewood 6-0 just seconds into their Class 3A, District 8 meeting when Jermiel Douse returned the opening kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown. But the Dragons scored 27 unanswered points to post a 27-6 district win and all but secure a playoff spot.
Tampa Bay Tech earned a physical 21-3 Class 5A, District 7 win against Tampa Freedom after University of Miami-bound running back Maurice Hagens bruised his way to 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Also, New Port Richey Mitchell (6-0) stayed unbeaten with a 21-7 win against Zephyrhills, Carrollwood Day School improved to 5-0 after defeated Winter Haven All Saints Academy 54-0 and St. Petersburg Gibbs upset rival St. Petersburg 41-13 in a Key 5A-9 matchup that handed St. Pete its first loss of the season.
Seminole Osceola running back Edwin McKinney broke loose for 384 yards rushing and four touchdowns as his team topped Tampa Blake 29-20. It was the first win for Osceola in 21 games, a streak dating back to 2007.
Tampa Carrollwood Day’s Darius Bing ran for 204 yards and four touchdown in a 54-0 win against Winter Haven All Saints Academy. He added another touchdown on an interception return.
Lithia Newsome tailback Conner Powers ran for 177 yards and four touchdowns in the Wolves’ 41-20 win against Tampa Robinson.
And Tampa Plant’s do-it-all threat T.J. Glover scored three touchdowns, one on a 22-yard run, another on a 5-yard catch and another on a 34-yard punt return, in the Panthers’ big win against Gaither.
MaxPreps Tampa Bay top-ranked Tampa Plant (4-1) squares off against Riverview Spoto, enjoying a 6-0 start to the season. The Class 3A Spartans have used outstanding defense to jump to an unbeaten start, giving up just 20 points all season. Plant is coming off a 49-0 dismantling of Tampa Gaither.
Meanwhile, Tampa Robinson (4-1) and St. Petersburg Catholic (5-1) square off in what amounts to the Class 2A, District 5 title game.
And Clearwater Countryside (5-1) plays at Tarpon Springs (5-1) in a meeting of two of the best teams in northern Pinellas County.
How they are lining up in the MaxPreps Tampa Bay Top Ten
1. Tampa Plant (4-1)
2. Seffner Armwood (4-1)
3. Tampa Hillsborough (4-1)
4. Tampa Bay Tech (4-1)
5. Riverview Spoto (6-0)
6. Tampa Catholic (4-0)
7. Plant City Durant (5-1)
8. Largo (5-1)
9. Tampa Jefferson (4-1)
10. Tampa Sickles (5-1)
Best of the rest… Land O’ Lakes (5-0), New Port Richey Mitchell (6-0), St. Petersburg (5-1), Brooksville Nature Coast (4-1), Dade City Pasco (4-1).
On the recruiting trail
University of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt certainly must have enjoyed his visit to Tampa Hillsborough on Friday night. Days after offering a scholarship to Lovett, the senior receiver put on a show, catching a 65-yard touchdown pass and returning a punt 79-yards for another score.
Leavitt was there to continue USF’s pursuit of Lovett’s teammates, Austin and Mitchell.
Largo defensive end/tight end Mike Douglas received an offer from Missouri this week. The standout has already received offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Central Florida.
Meanwhile, Palm Harbor University offensive lineman Mark Hansson (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) has received offers from Stanford, Auburn, Colorado State and South Florida.
And Clearwater Countryside offensive lineman Tyler Moore (6-6, 290) has orally committed to Nebraska.