With the bye week of 2013 behind them, the Bartow High School Yellow Jacket football team will get down to business Friday night at Bartow Memorial Stadium. It will be another district contest as the undefeated Dreadnaughts of Lakeland High School roll in.
Kickoff is 7 p.m.
While Lakeland is without a loss, Bartow, 2-3, has endured a three-game skid leading into the break. The week off has given the Jackets a chance to regroup and retune for the final stretch drive with four weeks remaining in the season.
The 2012 game between these two teams, played at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland, was an overtime contest that nearly saw Bartow on top. The teams had traded field goals through the early quarters and it remained 3-3 until the fourth quarter. Lakeland scored, but Vontarius West returned the kickoff for 74 yards to tie the game up and send it to overtime, eventually becoming a 17-10 Dreadnaught win. Lakeland had beaten Bartow 37-6 in Bartow in 2011.
The 2013 team is averaging nearly 35 points per game in its eight wins. Five of those wins came at home, all but one against opponents from outside Polk County. Lakeland has seven home games on the schedule and this trip to Bartow is their last road contest. Lakeland is ranked fifth in Class 7A in The Associated Press’ Top 10 high school poll.
Through the first seven games, Lakeland’s attack has focused primarily on the ground with running back Ra’don Dwight getting the bulk of the attention. When Dwight is not the leading ground gainer, it is junior quarterback Aaron Johnson who will take off in search of positive yards. Lakeland ran the ball 54 times for 344 yards against Haines City and averages about 10 passing plays per game. The defense has allowed more than 20 points once, giving up 34 points to 8A North Miami Beach in a 49-34 win.
The bye week has given Bartow additional time to prepare for Lakeland and this has been a game that many have anticipated since the release of the 2013 schedule. Bartow head coach Jason Butler will get his first opportunity to meet up with the team where he developed many of his coaching techniques as an assistant to Bill Castle. It adds yet another element to a budding rivalry, made even more enticing with the district alignment in the off-season. There are 14 seniors on the Bartow roster who would like nothing better than a win over Lakeland to get the Jackets back to .500 for the season and prepare for the next two road games.