Nature Coast leads Regional Semifinal Football Picks
By: Danny Aiello Jr & Derek J. LaRiviere
The Playoffs are in full swing and it is time for the Regional Semifinals. At stake is a trip to the Regional Final while a loss ends your season. This week we take on a different look, as we break down the game of the week with more detail than ever before. As always, chime in on Twitter, Facebook and in the Comments and let us know how you think the games will play out!
Game of the Week: River Ridge (10-1) at Nature Coast (11-0) 7:30pm
Aiello Jr: Nature Coast, 28-14
LaRiviere: Nature Coast, 35-21
What former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Ryan Benjamin has done with the Royal Knights program is beyond impressive. In his fifth season as the River Ridge coach, Benjamin has taken a team that once lost over 20 games in a row less than a decade ago and earned back-to-back 10-win campaigns. While the focus is on Nature Coast and Justin Worden’s work in earning the first postseason win in Sharks history, Benjamin has arguably done more at his alma mater.
It is tough to look beyond the emergence of Nature Coast, but the one strike against them is the lack of going against a premier defense. River Ridge may boast that, however, they Royal Knights have never faced an athlete like DeShawn Smith. These two teams seem like mirror images of each other and I expect the Purple Posse to make a trip to the Shark Tank to even level the playing field for crowd noise.
Derek’s Key Matchup: Nature Coast front seven v. River Ridge RB Chris Schwarz
While DeShawn Smith is mowing down all sorts of records and leading the state in rushing, Schwarz was doing the same last year. His numbers this season haven’t been as impressive, but the senior tailback personifies everything that the Royal Knights want to do. If Nature Coast can stop Schwarz from controlling the clock with his hard-nosed running style, it will be interesting to see if Benjamin unleashes Trevor Hawks, an underrated quarterback in the area.
Danny’s Key Matchup: Nature Coast Secondary v River Ridge RB Chris Schwarz
While the front seven need to contain Schwarz, the secondary will be called upon to finish the tackles and occasionally bring him down in the open field. Undersized, but effective players like Gil Delgado and Jamison Carnegie will need to make the 1-on-1 open field tackles to stop big gains.
Derek’s Bold Prediction: Brian Haygood will rush for over 100 yards
With all the attention on Smith, Haygood has the ability to be dangerous with the ball in hands as well. He went over 100 yards on the ground on two separate occasions this season. To beat a solid River Ridge defense, the Sharks will need more than one weapon, even if that weapon is as amazing as DeShawn Smith.
Danny’s Bold Prediction: Chris Schwarz will be held under 150 yards
Schwarz had run for at least 177 yards in every game this season except the Gulf blowout in which he had 119 and was pulled because the game was so out of hand. As good as Schwarz is, I expect the Sharks to put 10 in the box at times and dare River Ridge to throw the ball to beat them. I think this game will come down to the arm Trevor Hawks, to open the game up and give Schwarz a chance.
OVERALL RECORDS (LAST WEEK): Aiello Jr: 92-51 (2-2), LaRiviere 102-41 (3-1)