Football recruiting: Aquinas OT Armella vs. Dillard DE Kelly highlights packed Week 9

Jon Santucci
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Are you ready for Week 9?

Hope so, because this weekend of the high school football season is shaping up to be one of the best of the year.

Just look at the headliners: Dillard (7-0, No. 2 Class 7A) travels to St. Thomas Aquinas (7-1, No. 1 Class 7A) in a District 14-7A showdown and Sanford-Seminole (7-1, No. 3 Class 8A) hosts rival Lake Mary (7-0, No. 2 Class 8A) in District 2-8A.

The highly-anticipated season opener between Venice (7-0, No. 1 Class 8A) and Cardinal Gibbons (5-2, No. 3 Class 4A) was moved because of COVID-19 and will be played Saturday afternoon.

More:Hawthorne moves into Class A top spot in USA Today Florida Network high school football poll

More:Who are Florida's best high school football recruits? Here's USA Today Florida's Top 100 seniors

Those games are just the top of the card.

We’ve also got Bolles (6-0, No. 1 Class 4A) at Buchholz (6-1, No. 6 Class 6A), Spruce Creek (7-0, No. 7 Class 7A) at Cocoa (5-1, No. 2 Class 4A) and Jacksonville-Riverside (6-1, No. 7 Class 6A) at Jacksonville-Trinity Christian (6-2, No. 1 Class 2A).

That list doesn’t even include great regional matchups like Kissimmee-Osceola at West Orange, Lincoln at Rickards, Miami Palmetto at Gulliver Prep, Lakeland at Bartow, Tampa Bay Tech at Wharton or Wiregrass Ranch at Armwood.

Bottom line, this is a playoff-worthy week less than three weeks before the postseason begins.

Oh yeah, with all those talented teams playing each other, Week 9 also features several intriguing individual matchups featuring top recruits.

Aquinas 2022 OT Julian Armella vs. Dillard 2022 DE Nyjalik Kelly

Two of the state’s premier recruits faceoff in this one. The 6-foot-7, 290-pound Armella is tasked with protecting Aquinas QB Zion Turner’s blindside against one of the nation’s premier pass rushers. Armella (No. 24 USA Today midseason top 100) has Alabama, Florida, Florida State and LSU high on his list. Kelly, who had six sacks against Hallandale last week, is considering Florida State, Miami, LSU and Oregon, among others. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Kelly is No. 11 on midseason top 100.

Seminole safety Demari Henderson

Lake Mary 2022 QB Gunnar Smith vs. Seminole 2022 S Demari Henderson

Smith, a USF commit, has been the focal point of the Rams’ offense the past four seasons and certainly will be looking for his first win against the school’s rival. Smith is completing a career-best 68 percent of his passes for 1,329 yards and 15 touchdowns. Henderson (No. 79 top 100) missed the early part of the season, but is a fast, physical presence who could try to confuse Smith with pre-snap movements. Henderson and his twin brother Ja’Cari are down to Florida, Miami and UCF.

More:Exclusive: Seminole DBs Demari and Ja'Cari Henderson announce top 3 schools

Venice's Damon Wilson works out during an indoor practice at Venice High School.

Cardinal Gibbons 2023 QB Dylan Rizk vs. Venice 2023 DE Damon Wilson

Running backs likely will take center stage, but these two juniors could have a big say in who wins this matchup. The 6-foot-2 Rizk has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,087 yards and six touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 174 yards and three scores. Rizk’s offers include Indiana, Kentucky and UCF. Wilson, considered one of the premier junior edge rushers in the state, has been a force with 10 quarterback hurries, six sacks and six tackles for loss. Wilson has more than 15 offers, including Alabama, Clemson, Florida and Penn State.

Bolles running back Kade Frew (8) runs for a 60-yard touchdown against Cardinal Gibbons as Zachary Farris (5) pursues during the first quarter of the FHSAA Class 4A state football championship at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida on December 17, 2020. [James Gilbert/For the Times-Union]

Bolles 2022 RB Kade Frew vs. Buchholz 2023 DE Gavin Hill

Frew, an Air Force commit, has is coming off his best game of the season – a 24-carry, 185-yard, three-touchdown performance against Trinity Christian. Frew has topped 100 yards in five of the Bulldogs’ six games and scored 14 touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Hill is one of the premier edge rushers in the 2023 class and is a big reason why the Bobcats’ defense has allowed an average of only 6.57 points per game. Hill’s offers include Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and West Virginia.

Riverside cornerback Jaheim Singletary (1) is pictured after a high school football preseason kickoff classic against Bartram Trail on August 20, 2021. [Clayton Freeman/Florida Times-Union]

Trinity Christian 2025 QB Colin Hurley vs. Riverside 2022 CB Jaheim Singletary

Hurley, a 6-foot, 205-pound freshman, has thrown for 1,405 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions in eight games this fall. Hurley already has been offered by several Power 5 programs, including Florida, Florida State and Georgia. Singletary is the No. 2 player on the midseason top 100. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound cornerback has three interceptions and five pass breakups this season. Florida, Georgia and Miami are among the frontrunners for Singletary.

Wiregrass Ranch 2023 WR Bryson Rodgers vs. Armwood 2022 S Kye Stokes

Bryson leads Wiregrass Ranch in every major receiving category, including catches (25), yards (395) and touchdowns (9). The 6-foot-2 wideout has more than 20 offers, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa State and Oregon. Stokes, an Ohio State commit, is ranked No. 52 on the midseason top 100. Stokes leads Armwood with six passes defended and has two interceptions, including a pick-six against Strawberry Crest.

Additional matchups featuring top recruits that are worth the price of admission

Devin Outlaw takes a handoff from Drew Ammon during Oakleaf's game against Mandarin.

Oakleaf 2023 RB Devin Outlaw vs. Bartram Trail 2022 DL Segree Graham

Miami Palmetto 2022 WR Mike Jackson Jr. vs. Gulliver Prep 2023 CB Daniel Harris

Stranahan 2023 WR Hykeem Williams vs. Chaminade-Madonna 2022 CB Ryan Turner

Miami Edison 2023 WR Nathaniel Joseph vs. Dade Christian 2022 CB Darian Anderson

East St. Louis (Ill.) 2022 WR Luther Burden vs. IMG 2022 CB Daylen Everette

McCallie (Tenn.) 2022 ATH Kenzy Paul vs. Clearwater Academy International CB Rhyland Kelly

Kissimmee-Osceola 2025 RB Taevion Swint vs. West Orange 2022 DL Eddie Kelly

Tampa Bay Tech 2022 WR Greg Gaines vs. Wharton 2023 CB Dijon Johnson

Bonus: Additional games with a lot of recruiting talent 

Ocoee defensive lineman Jordan Phillips has committed to Tennessee.

Lincoln vs. Rickards

Lake Brantley vs. Ocoee

Lake Minneola vs. Jones

Satellite vs. Palm Bay

Spruce Creek vs. Cocoa

Merritt Island vs. Rockledge

Lakeland vs. Bartow

Glades Central vs. Vero Beach

Olympia vs. Dr. Phillips

Auburndale vs. Eau Gallie

Navarre vs. Niceville

Booker T. Washington vs. Homestead

Carol City vs. Miami Northwestern