When unbeaten Evans plays Dr. Phillips Friday, the result will be a measuring stick of how far the Trojans have come this fall.
"It`s big, real big," Evans Coach J. B. Gordon concedes about the Metro Conference and Class 6A, District 3 showdown of top defense vs. top offense among big schools. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Evans Stadium.
"If we`re going to win the district and the conference, it`s real big," he repeated.
Back in August, Dr. Phillips won a Kickoff Classic match between the two squads, 28-27. Since that time Evans has not lost, winning five in a row, four in the district.
"They will be ready to play us," Gordon said. "Everybody plays us tough."
"I know they are better than when we played them before," Dr. Phillips` Coach Jim Bernhardt said. "And I would like to believe we are a better team, too. The good news for us is we are healthy. The question is how we will respond coming off two consecutive losses."
The secret of Evans` success, Gordon believes, is togetherness and competitiveness.
"At times, in the past, we didn`t know which team was going to show up," Gordon said. "This group really loves to play. They play hard in practice and they play hard in the games. It`s so competitive in practice, it`s like a war zone out there."
Dr. Phillips` offense includes three of Central Florida`s most productive athletes -- sophomore quarterback Rob Wages, junior receiver Ryan Moore and senior running back Jamar Smith. Moore has caught an Orange County-leading 32 passes for 467 yards.
Mount Dora (2-5, 1-3) vs. Bishop Moore (3-4, 1-2)
At Bishop Moore HS, 7:30 p.m.
Significance: Hornets trying to give Gary Preisser an opportunity to have winning season in first year back in coaching, so this is must win.
Key matchups: Mount Dora running back Marcus Robinson vs. Hornet defensive back Dante Buckley.
The buzz: Bishop Moore`s offense has improved since moving Mike Malatesta to running back, and the Hornets match up better, speed wise, against Mount Dora in the non-district game.
Boone (5-3, 2-3) vs. Jones (0-8, 0-3)
At Norton Baker Field, 7:30 p.m.
Significance: Boone still is looking for its first winning season since Stacy Mack led the charge in 1992.
Key matchups: Boone QB Tyjuan Massey vs. Jones running back Charles Anthony.
The buzz: Tyjuan Massey continues to give the Braves all-purpose opportunities. In a tough loss to Winter Park, Massey returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown, ran six yards on a keeper for a TD and passed to Jonathan Hurt for a score, caught two passes as a receiver and played on occasion at cornerback.
DeLand (3-5, 3-1) vs. Apopka (7-0, 4-0)
At DeLand HS, 7:30 p.m.
Significance: Apopka can clinch Class 6A, District 2 title with a victory. DeLand can remain alive in the chase for a postseason berth with a victory.
Key matchups: QB Brett Pensala passing for Apopka vs. defense led by two-way standout Corey McKinney of DeLand
The buzz: Apopka continues to improve. It shows offensive diversity with Pensala`s passes to speedsters Ned Baldwin and Fernando Durden, which spread the defenses and allow fullback Steve Baylark to run inside.
Evans (5-0, 4-0) vs. Dr. Phillips (3-4, 2-2)
Significance: Evans is undisputed leader in Class 6A, District 3, and Dr. Phillips has the offensive horses to throw the district into a free for all.
Key matchups: Panther receivers led by Ryan Moore vs. Evans linebackers led by Ricky Smith and Cedrick Dewberry.
The buzz: Evans` defense has allowed only 222 yards per game and Dr. Phillips offense has accumulated nearly 300 yards per game, making this the old battle of irresistible force vs. immovable object.
First Academy (6-2, 3-1) vs. Lake Highland Prep (6-1, 2-0)
Payne Stewart Athletic Complex, 7:30 p.m.
Significance: Two of Central Florida`s top small school programs flex their muscles and this is the first time TFA gets to play a game on its home field.
Key matchups: Lake Highland running back Pooh McNeil vs. First Academy linebacker Bo Herrington. TFA running back Chris Green vs. Lake Highland defensive standouts Kyle and Kevin Joyce.
The buzz: McNeil went all the way through Pop Warner playing for coaches and with teammates now at TFA. Brother Chas and Ike Crofoot were long-time Pop Warner rivals with Lake Highland`s Joyce brothers. And their parents have now teamed up to help make the Dixon Ticonderoga Central Florida High School All-Star football game a successful reality.
Oviedo (3-4, 1-3) vs. Colonial (1-6, 0-4)
At Oviedo HS, 7:30 p.m.
Significance: Both teams need a win to build confidence to close out the season strong.
Key matchups: Oviedo receiver Steve Asby vs. Colonial defensive end Omar Billy.
The buzz: Both teams are snake-bit. Colonial has played tough against most of its opponents, and so has Oviedo. Last week both lost by field goals, the Grenadiers doing so in overtime.
West Oaks (3-4) vs. Lakeland Evangel Christian (1-7)
At Wymore, 7:30 p.m.
Significance: West Oaks wants to finish strong and end its first year of 11-man football with a .500 season.
Key matchups: West Oaks running backs Bob Tosi and Darius Thompson vs. Evangel`s defense
The buzz: Coach Todd Young closes out the school`s first-ever year in 11-man football and called the season a lot of fun. "Our kids played as well as can be expected for first-year kids," he said. "We only hand four players who had played football before, and that was 6-man ball."
West Orange (0-8, 0-5) vs. Edgewater (5-3, 2-2)
At West Orange HS, 7:30 p.m.
Significance: Edgewater needs a victory to remain in the chase for a postseason berth, and West Orange wants to get its first victory of the year.
Key matchups: Edgewater FB Nick Hill vs. West Orange defense.
The buzz: Edgewater is coming off a major upset at the hands of Cypress Creek and would love to provide new coach Bill Gierke with a winning season.
Winter Park (5-2, 3-1) vs. Cypress Creek (3-5, 2-2)
At Larry Gergley Stadium, Showalter Field, 7:30 p.m.
Significance: Wildcats hold their playoff hopes in their own hands and could take a big step toward the playoffs with a victory.
Key matchups: Winter Park running back Lantrez Jones vs. Creek defense and Creek QB Adam Hoots vs. Winter Park defense led by 6-7 Justin Wingard.
The buzz: Larry Gergley`s teams seem to find ways to win as the `Cats made it four in a row in which the team was tied for or trailed by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter before rallying to win. Roby Derilus caught three touchdowns in the final five minutes to highlight the stunning comeback against Boone.