MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
For some teams, it comes down to this: win or lose, then hold your breath. District heat, which has been simmering all year, now gets moved to the front burner and cranked up. There are four matchups of teams ranked in our top 20. All have significant meaning, are massive tests and will play a big role in the postseason. Here’s our six-pack of the best football has to offer this week:
1. Jesuit at Lakewood (5A-8)
It’s hard to get past the fact the Spartans struggled to beat Seminole and Middleton, when both those teams haven’t even won a game this year. But Lakewood clearly plays to the level of its competition. It will have to play its best game of the year to get by Jesuit, which can clinch the district title with a win Friday.
Best matchup: WR/DB Travis Johnson (six INTs) vs. Lakewood standout WR Rodney Adams.
2. Hillsborough at Armwood (6A-8)
For a district that has more nicknames than Sean Combs, it has come down to the exact teams we expected it to. The winner clinches a playoff spot. The loser has to fend off a potential but unlikely miracle finish by King.
Best matchup: Armwood’s Alvin Bailey vs. the only team with enough speed to stop him.
3. Land O’Lakes at Sunlake (6A-6)
How would you like to be a guy on the first team at Land O’Lakes not to make the playoffs since 1996? How would you like to be the guy on the other team from Land O’Lakes that ends that 14-year streak and steals the playoff spot for yourself?
Best matchup: Sunlake’s desperation vs. Land O’Lakes’ desperation.
4. Palm Harbor University at North Port (8A-7)
The Hurricanes can clinch the first playoff spot in school history if East Lake wins Friday, too. If East Lake stumbles, the worst PHU can do is a three-way tiebreaker. First-year coach Matt LePain would be given the key to the city if PHU cinches — except all the keys have been given away to the school’s soccer coaches.
Key matchup: The Hurricanes’ moxie vs. history, which has been a cruel beast.
5. Tampa Bay Tech at Steinbrenner (7A-7)
The Warriors lost the biggest game in school history a few weeks ago, but that has been replaced by this, the new biggest game in school history. With a win over the preseason district favorite, the only remaining teams on Steinbrenner’s schedule currently have records of 0-6, 0-6 and, you guessed it, 0-6.
Key matchup: Steinbrenner’s run defense vs. Tech’s Cludner Lecount, who seems poised for a breakout game.
6. Berkeley Prep at Clearwater Central Catholic (3A-5)
The postseason intensity is a bit muted for this one, but CCC can put a chink in the Bucs’ armor and turn the volume back up with a win. To do that, though, means stopping Nelson Agholor, who averages 11.5 yards a rush and is, well, totally awesome. Perhaps three to four 10-minute drives by CCC, a few onside kicks and some divine intervention accomplishes that.
Key matchup: Agholor vs. the CCC coaching staff’s master plan. They assure us they have one.
Pssst, these ain’t bad either
Durant at Newsome (7A-8): The Country Clash will leave one team home for the postseason.
Fivay at Pasco (5A-6): Fivay is for real, or will have Five-0 rung up on them by Pirates.
East Lake at Sarasota Riverview (8A-7): The postseason starts now.
Alonso at Plant (8A-6): After last week, we doubt the Ravens nevermore..
Robinson at Spoto (5A-8): The Spartans can play spoilers and get back into the playoff picture.