• WHAT: Cardinal Mooney Cougars(3A-6) 3-5, 1-1 @ Fort Meade Miners (3A-6) 6-2, 2-0
• WHERE: Frank S. Battle Field at Emory Lamb Stadium, Fort Meade
• WHEN: This Friday, Kickoff at 7 p.m.; Forecast: Chance of showers, Temp. Low 70s
• COUGARS TO WATCH: Mooney runs from the spread and Anthony Caiazzo is their bread-and-butter back that makes it go. The junior tailback has been prolific in the Cougar offense, due somewhat to defenses stretched thin from covering that spread offense. At 5-foot-9and 170 pounds, the small but speedy Caiazzo has totaled 1,405 rushing yards on 222 carries for a 6.3 average per carry and 12 touchdowns. More than 800 of those yards have come in his last three games, averaging 350 yards per game against LCS and St. Pete Catholic before being limited to just 105 at Frostproof. Directing the Cougar attack is first-year player, 6-foot-6 230-pound quarterback Sean McAdams. McAdams has completed 65 of 141 passes for a 46 percent completion rate, totaling 802 yards and seven touchdowns along with seven interceptions. Guarding the playmakers is a senior-laden offensive line led by 6-foot-1 270 pound Nick Seed. Kicker Alex Ojeda is 4-for-4 on field goals and 20 of 22 on PAT kicks.
• MINERS TO WATCH: When talking about the Miners as of late, you center on D.J. Clark. The junior running back just broke the 1,000 yard barrier last week against Auburndale with a 265 yard effort. The week before at LCS, Clark ripped off 254 yards. He definitely has his groove back after struggling early in the season. Spotting Clark last week was Jamie Willis. It was just for two plays, but WOW, as the first carry was for 77 yards and a score. The second was a key 16 yard first-down carry, extending a drive and setting up Clark’s touchdown on the very next play. Willis should see more time on offense this week. Quarterback Jay Smith struggled some last week, but still has the full confidence of Coach Cornelius in managing the Miner attack. Look for the Miner linebacker corps of Clark, Maurice Russell, Tanner Bell, Eric Nelson and Willis to try and stop Caiazzo Friday night. Helping out will be Jalen Brown, back off injury and a real key to stopping Caiazzo if he gets into the Miner secondary. Speaking of secondary, the Miner defensive backs will need to have their best game on, working single coverage while also keeping an eye on Caiazzo. Fort Meade is likely without the services of Tobias Culpepper, injured late in the Auburndale game.
• THE SKINNY: This one is for the district championship and will have that playoff atmosphere which Miners players and fans love and are accustomed to. With it being played at Battle Field, the Miners should have the advantage. The key for Fort Meade can be summed up in two words: “Stop Caiazzo!” Shutting down or limiting the Cougar star would make Mooney one-dimensional with McAdams in the passing game and that would bring pressure from the Miners front. If that happens, look for how McAdams handles the pressure. His interception total could increase with the play of a quick Miners secondary. On offense, the Miners need to score early and often to take Mooney out of the game, if possible. Look for Clark, Willis, Nelson and Russell to “pound the rock” for clock-eating scoring drives, keeping the ball away from Caiazzo and McAdams. Mooney and the Miners both average 22 points per game, but the Miners allow just 15 points a game to Mooney’s 20.4 points. When asked about a prediction, Coach Cornelius commented, “No predictions. We’ll just work hard. Mooney is a big group and they’ll try and run the ball. We like to run the ball, too, so it should be a great matchup,” said Cornelius. “That’s what we play for — to put ourselves in position to win a district championship. We do that and we position ourselves for the playoffs, so this definitely is the biggest game of the season.”
Cornelius added, “For us to win, we’ve got to do what we do best — play Miner football. We’ve got to come ready to go. The biggest thing is preparation. We preach preparation, and try and make sure we’re ready. We need to come out Friday clicking on all cylinders and get the early momentum.” If they do that the Miners can lock down their 13th consecutive district title. But it won’t be easy against a confident Mooney Cougar squad eager to prove they have the stuff to take down the mighty Miners. Still, the Miners have looked their best during a six-game winning streak and have shown they’re maturing each week. This game will be a “doozy.”
BRO. FRANK’S PICK: Miners — in a track meet — 35-17.