There are bigger and more important games to follow, but this week, things start to get serious.
Here's my take on the biggest game in each district this week.
THE BIG GAME: Plant plays Alonso. Both teams are 1-0 in the district.
WHY SO BIG: The winner would play the following week for the district title. But Plant would play Bloomingdale, while the Ravens have to beat Wharton. A Plant win makes it a race for second.
THE BIG GAME: Palm Harbor University (1-0) hosts North Port (0-1, 3-4 overall).
WHY SO BIG: PHU and East Lake (plays Riverview) can actually both clinch playoff spots with wins, setting up their Nov. 2 game at East Lake as a true district championship game. But North Port is a threat to get in the way. The Bobcats gave East Lake a game this season (losing 22-16), and if they beat PHU Friday, they only have to beat Riverview (whose only win is against winless Braden River) to finish 2-1. That would leave PHU with a must-win against East Lake just to force a three-way tiebreaker.
Who needs that pressure?
THE BIG GAME: Pinellas Park (2-0) plays Northeast (1-1).
WHY SO BIG: If Countryside has to forfeit its district wins, it loses its 49-0 victory over Northeast. That means a Pinellas Park win all but knocks the Cougars out of the playoffs, while a Northeast win gives Countryside a chance at catching Pinellas Park but not the Vikings. If Countryside doesn’t have to forfeit anything, Pinellas Park can all but sew up the runnerup spot by knocking off the Vikes.
THE BIG GAME: East Bay (1-1) is at Plant City (1-1).
WHY SO BIG: Yeah, I know Durant hosts Newsome and both are 2-0, but the winner of East Bay-Plant City stays alive and plays a big role in any playoff battle. If East Bay wins, it goes to 2-1 and sets up a playoff-making game against Durant next week, and if Plant City wins it will probably get a chance to play itself into the playoffs with its game against Newsome, where both teams would presumably be 3-1, on Nov. 2. The loser, though, is all but eliminated.
THE BIG GAME: Wiregrass Ranch (0-2) at Chamberlain (1-1).
WHY SO BIG: Listen, this district is going to come down to Gaither and Tampa Bay Tech’s showdown on Nov. 2. It's hard to envision any other scenarios. Unless you consider: With a win, Chamberlain will probably go into next week's game at Gaither 2-1 in the district, and in a rivalry game with the Cowboys you never know. Chamberlain only lost 27-20 last year. But giving up 49 points in one half last week against Durant makes me wonder if I’m being too optimistic.
THE BIG GAME: Armwood (4-0) at Hillsborough (3-1)
WHY SO BIG: Armwood pretty much wraps up the district with a win, dropping Hillsborough to 3-2. That result also leaves Jefferson with hope, because if the Dragons knock off Sickles Friday, that leaves three two-loss teams and a probable three-way tiebreaker for the runnerup spot (keeping in mind Strawberry Crest has huge spoiler potential). There’s a big ripple effect if the Hawks win. If the Terriers win, then Sickles has to win or it’s likely Armwood-Hillsborough going to the playoffs with 5-1 district records, most likely. Jefferson, of course, has to win this week and root for the Hawks, then just keep winning.
THE BIG GAME: Osceola (1-1) vs. Tarpon Springs (1-1).
WHY SO BIG: I’d argue this game is bigger for Osceola, because Tarpon probably has to go 3-0 to make the playoffs and that includes beating No. 1 Largo, and I don’t see it. Plus, they lost to second-place Lakewood Ranch, killing any tiebreaker advantages. But if Osceola (which has already lost to Largo) wins, it only needs to beat Dixie Hollins to go into the season finale with Lakewood Ranch (both should be 4-1) with a great chance to make the playoffs.
THE BIG GAME: They are all big.
WHY SO BIG: Hernando and Springstead are 4-0 and play each other. And Mitchell and Nature Coast Tech are 3-1 and face off. These four teams play only each other the last three weeks, making it impossible to decipher. Look for the forecast to change weekly, and I’m expecting volatility.
THE BIG GAME: Lakewood (5-0) at Jesuit (5-1)
WHY SO BIG: I assume Lakewood will beat Spoto in three weeks, so therefore, I believe the Spartans clinch a playoff spot with a win, and Jesuit would be eliminated (unless you believe the Spartans collapse again like last year, which isn’t happening, folks). But even with a loss, the Spartans can beat Robinson next week and get back in the playoff picture. Jesuit, however, can’t. Two losses in this district just won't cut it.
THE BIG GAME: Pasco (4-0) at Fivay (4-0)
WHY SO BIG: This game can’t knock Pasco out of playoff contention (or Fivay), but it is more interesting because we will see the Pirates take on what is believed to be their first serious test of the season. I’m not sure I see it like that. Pasco isn’t going to lose a regular-season game, so the bigger 5A-6 game comes when Fivay and Zephyrhills play down the road.
THE BIG GAME: Meh.
Weeki Wachee (0-4) is the only local team in this district, and the Hornets will play the only other winless team, Interlachen, in two weeks. So that will be big for the program.
THE BIG GAME: CCC (1-0) at Berkeley Prep (1-0)
WHY SO BIG: For the Marauders, a win wraps up, mostly, the district championship, leaving just St. Petersburg Catholic to stop them. Not happening. Berkeley Prep, should it win, has a trickier and tougher path to a perfect district season with Tampa Catholic remaining. No one is getting eliminated tonight, however.
THE BIG GAME: There isn’t really a big game this week, but the leaders all need to keep winning. Indian Rocks Christian, Carrollwood Day and Admiral Farragut all have one loss. A huge Carrollwood Day-Indian Rocks Christian game (AFA will be rooting for Carrollwood Day, because a Patriots’ win would give them the district title) looms down the road.