If you’re a fan of high school football in general but don’t have a favorite team, there are plenty of games in the area to watch this season. Some of the games feature the best teams in the county, but the games don’t necessarily have to feature playoff-caliber teams to be memorable.
In fact, games involving two average but evenly matched teams can often be more fun and exciting than a two-team playoff game when one of them is an elite team that will blow the other out.
So this list may change as the season progresses, but for now, here are potentially the best games to watch each week.
Week 1: Lakeland Christian at Frostproof
This has been a friendly rivalry every time since former Frostproof coach Shannon Benton left former Lakeland Christian coach Wayne Peace’s staff in 2014. The two teams have played each year. With this year’s game being the first game of the season, it will be a good test for both teams to gauge where they stand as both are expected to contend for district titles and make deep playoff runs .
Week 2: Lake Wales at Ridge Community
Both teams have the potential to be among the most potent offenses in the county. Ridge is led by Joe Jackson, while Lake Wales is expected to counter with Corey Harris Jr.’s 1-2 punch. and Jordan Henderson. Both teams have the deepest group at wide receiver this side of Lakeland. Lake Wales, however, is more experienced at quarterback.
Week 3: Kathleen at Auburndale
Both teams lost players to transfer and/or graduation, however, Kathleen-Auburndale is always a good matchup in most sports. On a night when almost all Polk teams play non-district opponents, this is the ultimate All-Polk game — unless you want to watch Lakeland play Winter Haven.
Week 4: Mulberry at Fort Meade
This game has big implications in Class 2S-District 13, which has the potential to be a three-team contest with — in no particular order — Frostproof, Fort Meade and Mulberry. The winner of this game gets an early advantage.
Week 5: Auburndale at Bartow
This is not a busy week as six teams have recognition. Auburndale-Bartow is one of the lesser-known rivalries in Polk County, so even though both teams are rebuilding, it could be an emotional game.
Week 6: Lake Gibson at Lakeland
Lakeland, of course, will be favored, but there should be a lot of excitement in this game, especially with all the players attending schools – both ways. The Dreadnaughts look to avenge last year’s two losses to Lake Gibson. The Braves want to show their former teammates that they should have stayed at Lake Gibson.
Week 7: Lake Gibson at Lake Wales
Lake Gibson and Lake Wales have been two of the top teams in the county for most of the last two decades, but they haven’t played each other since 2018 when Lake Wales beat Lake Gibson, 16-13, for broken four games. a losing streak against the Braves. If Lake Gibson’s rebuilding job goes well, this could be one of the best games of the year.
Week 8: Lakeland Christian at Victory Christian
The two private Christian schools have been the top-ranked teams in their classification, often making deep playoff runs. While fans, coaches and players from each school wanted the two teams to play, church leaders in Victory would not allow the game. But with the reclassification, the highly anticipated game will take place on October 14 at Southeastern’s Victory Field.
Week 9: Haines City at George Jenkins
Pat Herrington is in his second year of trying to turn Haines City back into a consistent winner. Paul Freeman is in Year 1 of his quest to turn Jenkins into a consistent winner. With this game, we will see how successful this year has been for everyone in achieving their goal.
Week 10: Fort Meade at Frostproof
If Fort Meade and Mulberry each survive their previous tests against Mulberry, then this game will likely be for the district title.
Week 11: Winter Haven at Auburndale
And last but not least before the final, Winter Haven-Auburndale is one of the oldest rivalries in Polk County. So if the rebuilding jobs at both schools didn’t go as planned, there could be a playoff atmosphere. Or you can go see Lake Wales in Bartow.
Roy Fuoco can be reached at [email protected] or at 863-802-7526. Follow him on Twitter: @RoyFuoco.