TAMPA — For the moment, Class 6A, District 8’s two playoff spots are going to Hillsborough and Armwood.
By next week, both schools might have only a quarter and a handful of plays to fight for what they thought they had won over the course of five games.
The potential postseason tumult hinges on the Florida High School Athletic Association’s review of the academic eligibility of a player at Jefferson High, which could result in forfeits and a re-ordering of the district playoff race.
“We’re just waiting to see if we’re district champions,” Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said Monday via text message, “or in a shootout.”
Jefferson has asked the FHSAA to rule on the eligibility of one of its players. If the FHSAA rules the Dragons used an ineligible player, it would result in the forfeiture of three of their wins — two in district play — and create a three-way first-place tie among Hillsborough, Armwood and Sickles.
As of Monday, the FHSAA had not issued a ruling.
“They’ve gone to the decision -makers and asked them, ‘What do you think?’ ” Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson said. “They’re asking the FHSAA for some clarification. There’s some doubt as to if they’ve done anything wrong.”
Jefferson athletic director Bernard Cannon said no one at the school had attempted to skirt the rules; school officials were just looking to the FHSAA for guidance on whether the player was eligible.
The player was held out of the Dragons’ win over Leto last week.
“This is very unique …right now it’s just a matter of interpretation,” Cannon said. “I just wish they could hurry up. I’m very excited and anxious (for a ruling).”
The race for 6A-8’s two playoff spots was thought to have been settled last Friday when Hillsborough completed its district schedule with a 5-1 record after a win over King. Armwood, 4-1 in 6A-8, had seemingly secured the second playoff spot with one district game left against King this week.
But if Jefferson forfeits wins over King and Sickles (and a non-district win over Newsome on Sept. 7), that improves Sickles’ district record to 4-1 and potentially sets up the Gryphons to move into a first-place tie with Hillsborough and Armwood.
If Armwood and Sickles win their district finals as expected, that would create a scenario where three teams have 5-1 records. Hillsborough, which has the best overall record at 8-1, would host the tiebreaker Monday.
Sickles and Armwood would play for a quarter. The winner would advance to play Hillsborough for another quarter. If Hillsborough wins, they would retain the district title. If the Terriers lose, they have to face the loser of the earlier game in a battle for the final playoff spot.
“I don’t agree with the way things are shaking out,” Armwood coach Sean Callahan said. “But our kids are going to handle this fine and we’ll deal with whatever is presented.”
Jefferson coach Jeremy Earle and Sickles coach Brian Turner each declined comment.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jdanderson.