Time to step up

Sebring's had Oct. 18 marked on the calendar since before the season even began. It's safe to say the Blue Streaks understand the magnitude of tonight's district game against Winter Haven. "They're a really balanced team," said Sebring coach LaVaar Scott. "We've played a lot of teams that do one thing real well; either they pass and don't run a lot, or they run and don't pass too much, but not the Blue Devils. They can do both." Sebring (5-1) and Winter Haven (5-2) are undefeated in Class 6A-District 11 play and tied for first place in the standings, so the winner of tonight's match up will control its playoff destiny.
Unfortunately for the Blue Streaks, historical factors don't bode well for a victory. Since becoming district opponents in 2009, Winter Haven holds a 4-0 advantage over Sebring, with the Devils outscoring the Streaks 130-7 during that span. Winter Haven coach Charlie Tate and his team have been the darlings of 6A-11 for the last four years, and he's got his team on pace for another 10-win season. But not if Scott has his way. "We'll have to play a near-flawless game," Scott said. "But our kids know that. Our coaching staff knows that. And we tried to prepare our guys best for that. They've put in a lot of work; now it's time to go out and perform." Coming into the game on a three-game win streak, Sebring is peaking at the right time. The offense has scored over 40 points in back-to-back games. The defense has only give up 36 points for the entire season. The corps of running backs is healthy. And perhaps most importantly, the Streaks are 4-0 on the road this year. Sebring's tested road legs should be a decisive advantage, especially considering that Winter Haven is coming off of three straight road games. The Devils went 2-1 on that swing, but won't have a bye until after they play the Streaks. If there was ever a time for Sebring to win, that time is now. The Streaks have opened up the passing game as of late, too, knowing that Winter Haven might try and stack the box in order to stop the run. Last week against Tenoroc, both Connor Cook and Jair Watson threw for scores. So if Giovanni Jenkins and A.J. Gayle fail to get the running game going, Sebring might rely on its air attack. Either way, Scott is confident in the offense. "We've had a few minor things to work on," Scott said. "Making sure our quarterbacks see the receivers. Making sure our line executes its blocks. Making sure the running backs see the holes. That discipline is something Winter Haven has. And those little things are what decides some games." Scott knows that better than anyone. Some of Sebring's biggest plays this season have come on special teams. In the last three games, the Streaks have scored on kickoff and punt returns, as well as blocked a field goal. And as Sebring's special teams coordinator, Scott knows that plays like that can be big momentum changers. "We work hard on special teams," he said. "Time is short in high school. But we always make sure to get 15-20 minutes in for special teams." The team also spends a lot of time focusing on special teams in the film room. "We watch as much special teams film as possible," Scott said. "We're always looking for something to help us find a spark. And special teams can be big for field position on both offense and defense. It's definitely given us that extra boost this season, so we hope we can keep that phase of the game the same tonight." Following their game against Winter Haven, the Streaks will be back at home on Friday for a nondistrict game against Lely. Sebring won't face another district opponent again until Nov. 1, when its scheduled to play Lake Gibson, also at home. bhoward@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5841 Sebring at Winter Haven Where: Denison Stadium When: Tonight at 7 Cost: $5