These are the high school football playoffs.
They are designed to get tougher each week, designed to culminate in crowning the best team in each classification.
But if any of Tampa Bay’s teams makes a state final this season, it probably won’t be the hardest game of the season.
That game is reserved for Friday.
East Lake plays Class 8A No. 1 and undefeated Orlando Dr. Phillips.
Armwood plays Class 6A No. 1 and undefeated Gainesville.
Clearwater Central Catholic plays Class 3A No. 1 and undefeated Fort Lauderdale University.
Robinson plays Class 5A No. 2 and undefeated Pasco.
The exception — other than Pasco, since Robinson is neither unbeaten nor ranked No. 1 — is Newsome.
The Wolves take on Kissimmee Osceola, a Class 7A top-5 team boasting a 12-0 record.
If you go by the rankings, football season all but ends Friday in Tampa Bay, with only the winner of the Robinson-Pasco game surviving.
But if you go by the unpredictable nature of high school football, things may just be getting more interesting.
Here are the odds of an underdog handing a team its first — and last — loss of the season.
1. Pasco at Robinson
Since No. 1 Wakulla lost last week, we’re anointing the Pirates the new top team in 5A.
Can Robinson beat the Pirates? Absolutely.
Can I borrow a quarter?
Robinson might have a few things in its favor, though, that the other teams still playing don’t, which doesn’t make it a sure bet, just the best bet to win. The Knights are trying to send their beloved, retiring coach (Mike DePue) out with a title, and the Knights will be at home in front of what should be a packed and frenzied crowd.
2. East Lake at Dr. Phillips
Odds that East Lake wins: 45-55
The Panthers routed Plant last week, making the defending Class 8A champion look inept on offense.
A comparison to Plant, though, isn’t what has us thinking East Lake has a good chance.
It’s a comparison to Wharton.
When Dr. Phillips and Wharton met in the first round, Wildcat quarterback Chase Litton threw for a career-high 404 yards and led his team to a host of goal-line opportunities it squandered.
Why can’t senior QB Pete DiNovo do the same, but with a better offensive line that is too good to squander its goal-line opportunities?
Why not, indeed.
3. Armwood at Gainesville
Odds that Armwood wins: 35-65
Armwood is carrying itself like a champion right now. The coaching staff is tuned in, and road wins over Largo and Hillsborough — two of the best teams in Tampa Bay — have the Hawks convinced they can beat anyone.
Gainesville, meanwhile, has feasted this postseason on Hernando and Ocala Vanguard, the latter of whom beat only two teams with a winning record.
The Hawks, who were better last year, beat Gainesville, which is better this year, 17-14 in 2011. To win this week, the Hawks will have to hold the Hurricanes to 14 points or fewer again, because their offense continues to sputter and no other team has stymied the Hurricanes.
But if anyone can it’s the Hawks, who have allowed eight points or fewer in four of their past five games.
4. Newsome at Kissimmee Osceola
Odds that Newsome wins: 32-68
The Kowboys aren’t No. 1 in brutally tough Class 7A, but they are 12-0.
Both teams like to run, run, run, so much so that we expect this game to be over by 8:30 p.m.
The Kowboys average almost 40 rushes and 332 yards a contest. The Cinderella Wolves average more than 40 carries and 285 yards.
But is anyone running the ball better than the Wolves right now?
In the past four weeks, Newsome is averaging 364 yards a game. Three weeks ago, Clint Carnell and John Hendricks rushed for 100 yards each. The week before, Will Worth and Hendricks did it. Last week, all three went over 100 yards.
Friday, the Wolves will take any combination of the two. If they can get it, they have to like their chances.
5. University at CCC
Odds that CCC wins: 15-85.
The good news: CCC gets to host a state semifinal.
The bad news: Sorry, Marauders, but you have the toughest game of the week.
University will be, by far, the best team CCC has seen this season, and it’s a team some think is actually the best in Florida. Friday’s matchup will be the stiffest test for a Marauder defense that has been terrific, allowing just seven points in the past five games combined.
But the Marauder offense has struggled against its best competition, and the 10 points it scored to beat Tampa Catholic last week won’t be nearly enough.
But we know coach John Davis has some tricks up his sleeves. The Marauders will have to pull them all off perfectly.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.