There are no Sarasota football teams left undefeated, which means all of them have questions to answer heading into the meat of their schedules.
Two weeks into the high school football season and the hopes of Sarasota-area teams for a perfect season are already dead.
Yes, each squad has already lost at least once. While no team wants to lose at all, losing early means there is time to fix the problems that plague them and still have a successful season. Here, I've put together the one big question I have about each program and looked at how those questions might be answered in week three and beyond.
I can't answer these outright, because the real answers will only be found on the field. That's why we watch, after all.
How much of the Rams' 0-2 start is because of its opponents?
The Rams lost 48-0 to Sanford Seminole High in week one and 45-6 to Gainesville Buchholz High in week two. On paper, those scores look bad. But there's a few things to consider here. One, both Seminole and Buchholz are legitimate state contenders; Seminole reached the Class 8A regional finals last season while Buchholz reached the Class 7A state semifinals. Two, the Rams tend to start slowly; they lost to the same Seminole program 35-6 in 2021's opening week before winning seven straight games.
So the two losses are not the end of the world. The Rams can still make the postseason. But the losing streak can't get extended. Riverview plays on the road at Palmetto High (1-1) on Friday. The Tigers are coming off a crushing overtime loss to Braden River High and will be out for revenge against Riverview for a 22-16 Rams win last season. The Rams need to be prepared and play much better on both sides of the ball than they did in the first two weeks. If they don't, a good Tigers teams will put them in an even larger hole.
Which Sailors performance is closer to reality?
Sarasota crushed Bayshore High 56-8 in week one and lost 42-20 to Manatee High in week two. My guess is that the Sailors are closer to their first performance; against Manatee, the Sailors put up a fight, cutting the score to 21-20, before Manatee scored 21 straight points to end the game. Sarasota had its chances but failed to execute well enough. That will happen with underclassmen in key positions.
The good news is these underclassmen will learn with experience and, Sailors fans can hope, get better. Junior Jaden Judge, a running back, has done a lot of good things. He has three rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown. If more young Sailors follow his trajectory, the program will have something. A game against a Booker High program in a similar spot on Friday night should be a good test to this end.
Can the Tornadoes continue not to beat themselves?
After Booker's week one loss to Cardinal Mooney High, 10-9, first-year coach Scottie Littles expressed disappointment in his team's discipline. Booker had plenty of chances to score a touchdown but failed, to go along with some untimely penalties and a few low snaps which cost the team yardage (and handed the Cougars two crucial points on a safety.)
In week two, Booker remedied some of these issues. The Tornadoes beat Southeast High 31-17. They certainly solved their problems with scoring, though I don't think scoring on Southeast is going to be the toughest of challenges this season — it gave up 50 points to Coconut Creek High in week one. Doing it against Sarasota on Friday will be a sign that Booker has turned an offensive corner. But the Tornadoes will have to do it while not allowing the Sailors to score on them.
If I was a Sarasota-area fan deciding which game to attend this week, I'd go to that one, because I have no idea it will turn out. No matter how it does, it will answer some questions.
Cardinal Mooney High
Which Cougars defense is for real?
Similar to Sarasota's question, but specifically for the Mooney defense, which allowed zero offensive touchdowns in its 10-9 week one win over Booker, then allowed seven of them in a 51-23 loss to Lakewood Ranch High in week two. It's true that Booker had a few opportunities to score in week one, so that zero is a bit misleading, but the Mooney defense deserves credit for locking those opportunities down. Conversely, Mooney could not stop Lakewood Ranch quarterback Clayton Dees at all; he threw for three touchdowns and ran for three more, accounting for 424 total yards. The game was Dees' first as the Mustangs quarterback — Lakewood Ranch had its week one game against Lemon Bay High canceled in the first quarter— so perhaps the lack of video on him was a factor.
Either way, the Cougars won't win many games if they routinely allow opponents to score that many points. That's not exactly string theory to understand. Before the season I praised the Cougars defense on its potential. I still believe it and the team as a whole can be quite successful, but they have to prove it. It will also need some assistance from its offense: while the defense definitely allowed too many yards, the offense turned the ball over five times.
This Friday's road game against First Baptist Academy, which reached the Class 2A state semifinals in 2021, won't get easier, so things have to improve fast.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.