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Football coaches at Armwood, Hillsborough and Sickles have been told to prepare for a three-way tiebreaker at Hillsborough High on Monday, pending the Florida High Schools Athletic Association’s ruling on an eligibility issue that could cause upheaval in the district playoff race.
Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson said the coaches were told early last week to be ready for the potential tiebreaker at 7 p.m. Monday.
If the FHSAA does not make a ruling by the end of the day, then Hillsborough and Armwood will retain the two playoff berths in Class 6A, District 8.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” Robinson said. “This is kind of an unusual circumstance.”
Currently, Hillsborough (8-1, 5-1) is the district champion and Armwood (7-3, 4-1) is the runnerup and owner of the district’s second playoff berth. Sickles (6-3, 4-2) finished its district schedule in third place and out of the postseason.
But that could change, pending Jefferson High’s request last week that the FHSAA rule on the academic eligibility of one of its players.
If the FHSAA rules Jefferson used an ineligible player, it would result in the forfeit of three wins – two in district play, including one against Sickles – and create a three-way tie for first place among Hillsborough, Armwood and Sickles.
That would force the three teams to play a tiebreaker at Hillsborough, which has the best overall record.
Sickles and Armwood would play for a quarter. The winner would advance to play Hillsborough for another quarter. If Hillsborough wins, it 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.
Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said his team, which didn’t have a game this past Friday, prepared for Armwood and Sickles last week and started watching film for its regular-season finale against Chamberlain this week.
Garcia said he would have preferred to give his team an easier week of practice.
“We worked too hard during the open week,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and never had this kind of scenario before. … Hopefully we’ll get a call saying we don’t have to do this and we’re the champs.”
The FHSAA has not immediately returned messages seeking comment.
Robinson said though the district has told coaches to proceed as if there’s a tiebreaker Monday, administrators are also proceeding as if the district has settled its playoff race.
“Unless the FHSAA says there’s an issue, that’s what it is,” Robinson said. “I don’t know that the FHSAA feels the same time crunch that the schools do.”