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10 questions: Which Pinellas playoff contender has the toughest road to get there?

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Fri. August 5, 2011 | Times Staff

10 questions: Which Pinellas playoff contender has the toughest road to get there?

Over the next two weeks, we’ll pose and answer a question a day about the upcoming football season. Have a topic you think needs to be addressed? E-mail us at hometeam@tampabay.com.

Which playoff contender has the toughest road to get there?

To find out what truly separates playoff hopefuls from everyone else, look no further than the district. Teams hitched up with an inviting stretch of overmatched opponents obviously have an easier time than those that have to slog through a demanding district schedule. That makes the reshuffling of districts and classifications this offseason vital to a team’s hopes.

What we’re saying
Bob Putnam:
Clearwater Central Catholic’s affiliation with Class 3A, District 5 yields few easy nights. Sure, the biggest nemesis, Fort Meade, is no longer in the district. But that is little consolation. Two of the three other teams in the district, Berkeley Prep and Tampa Catholic, made the playoffs last year. The other team, St. Petersburg Catholic, struggled but returns a game-breaking running back in Ryan Green.

Last year, the Marauders lost to Berkeley 37-7 and to Tampa Catholic 14-0. The Buccaneers return a majority of their starters, led by multidimensional offensive threat Nelson Agholor. The Crusaders were a young team that got better as the season went along.

That could be trouble for the Marauders, who will likely have to win two of their three district games to have a shot at the playoffs. CCC has the talent to get it done. But it will not be easy.

Bryan Burns: Look no further than Lakewood, which has the athletes to contend in the playoffs but might not get there because of a jumbo-sized district.

The Spartans moved from a six-team district (3A-8) where its stiffest competition for the runnerup spot (behind the clear favorite Jefferson) was Spoto, a program that didn’t start playing varsity football until 2007, to a nine-team district (5A-8) that features three playoff teams from a season ago, Lakewood included.

Teams in the newly-formed 5A-8 went a combined 52-44 last season. Jesuit brings back another strong squad after going undefeated in the 2010 regular season, and on paper, the road to the district title travels down Himes Ave.

Robinson advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals but losses to graduation make the Knights a bit more vulnerable than the Tigers.

Lakewood would have to unseat one of those top two to make the postseason while keeping some of the upstarts (Gibbs, Middleton, Spoto) at bay.

And don’t forget it was Blake, another 5A-8 team, that handed the Spartans a late-season loss last year that forced a must-win game a week later against Spoto to determine the district runnerup, which Lakewood survived by winning 28-22.

Lakewood certainly has the talent to make its fourth straight trip to the postseason, but the Florida High School Athletic Association didn’t do the Spartans any favors when it announced the new district assignments.

What they’re saying
CCC coach John Davis:
“I haven’t studied up much on the other districts. I just know ours is pretty dang tough. Berkeley Prep and Tampa Catholic are really good. Berkeley physically manhandled us last year. And Tampa Catholic beat us and they were young. And St. Petersburg Catholic has gotten better. The tough thing about it is it’s only a four-team district, so once you have a loss you’re already in the hole.”

Lakewood coach Cory Moore: “There are a ton of good teams in this district. And it’s eight other teams so that’s pretty much our whole schedule. There are a lot of speed and great athletes. The good thing is the bracket sets up nicely for whoever gets out of the district to make a nice run. We just have to find a way to get there.”

Also in this series:

Can a loaded Plant City team finally topple Newsome for a district title?

Can St. Petersburg Catholic’s Ryan Green rush for 2,000 yards?

Will the Robinson Knights regress or reload?

Will this be the year of the quarterback in Pinellas County?

What are realistic expectations for Fivay?

Who will start the season at quarterback at Gaither?

Which new head coach on the North Suncoast will fare the best in 2011?

Who will be tougher to replace, St. Petersburg RB Rashad Lewis or Countryside OL Tyler Moore?

How will Wiregrass Ranch respond after its first district title?

How will Middleton get the ball into Richard Benjamin’s hands?

Can Steinbrenner live up to expectations that come with a move to Class 7A?

Who will be the North Suncoast's breakout players?

Which Pinellas transfer will have the biggest impact?

Who will be the runnerup in Class 5A, District 6?

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