Before the first frantic shopping day of the season expires, the Lakewood High School Spartans will receive the most tantalizing item on their holiday wish list: a rematch against Robinson.
A county away, Armwood will be presented a sleek, shiny new set of 12-minute quarters against Hillsborough.
And while irrational adults go Greco-Roman on each other for the last discounted flat screen at your nearest center aisle, Newsome and Durant will wage an equally intense scuffle for the second time in five weeks. Just what the Wolves always wanted.
Welcome to Black Friday, an insane 24-hour span of rebates, rollback prices and football rematches.
“I told the guys after the (first Robinson game) that we have good film of these guys if we see them again,” said Lakewood coach Cory Moore, whose team can avenge a 19-8 loss to the Knights in Friday’s Class 5A region semifinal in Tampa.
“And besides that, I’m excited because we’re starting to peak. A lot of teams have already peaked and started to (regress). I think we’re in a good situation here.”
For the sequel buff, Florida’s prep football playoff format is nirvana. This Friday alone, four of the regular-season’s most hyped matchups — Armwood-Hillsborough, Newsome-Durant, Lakewood-Robinson and Tampa Catholic-Clearwater Central Catholic — will be replayed.
Only this time, win-or-go-home stakes will be tossed in. It’s a direct by-product of the state’s inclusive playoff philosophy (the champions and runners-up from each district qualify) and quirky bracket tweaked five years ago.
Now, if a champion and runnerup from the same district win their first-round games, they meet in Round 2. Routinely, the rematch falls on Thanksgiving weekend.
Talk about your second helpings.
“I do think the playoff format is fair,” said Armwood coach Sean Callahan, whose team missed 27 tackles and committed more than 100 penalty yards in a 3-0 loss to Hillsborough on Oct. 18.
“I like the district champ and runnerup going in and that (rematch) possibility’s going to happen. We’re a very good district, so that’s what happens.”
For some, it happens frequently. Armwood and Hillsborough will be playing for the fourth time in two seasons. The other three matchups will be occurring for the third time in 13 months. If the law of diminishing returns has kicked in, no one’s admitting it.
“I like the idea that two teams from the same district get to go to the playoffs and the current format keeps the matchup close enough the first couple of rounds to where you don’t have to travel that much,” said CCC coach John Davis, a 27-7 winner against TC in October.
“But it’s tough to beat a team twice from your district. Look at the NFL; you hardly ever see a team sweep a division opponent. It’s even tougher in a smaller district because we all have so many common opponents and have so much film on each other.”
History suggests otherwise.
In the past three years, playoff rematches involving local teams have occurred 12 times. Only three times has the regular-season loser won the postseason sequel.
That’s simple math telling us the odds of seeing Giants-Patriots Part Deux are far less than the odds of being exposed to LSU-Alabama Part Dull.
“In our case, we actually prefer to do it all over again. It was a very strange kind of game — they had a few big plays but it was a very close game,” Tampa Catholic coach Bob Henriquez said.
“…I know from past experience that it’s tough to beat good teams twice. If you won the first time, it can be awkward.”
Robinson coach Mike DePue says he’d prefer the old format in which district foes didn’t meet until Round 3.
“But the bottom line is, you’re going to eventually have to go through them if they’re a good team, and Lakewood’s a good team,” DePue said.
“You sit there and go, ‘Do we throw anything brand new at them?’ I’m sure we’ll throw some wrinkles at them, but we’ve got to get after ’em a little bit better than we did last time.”
Otherwise, the bizarre could transpire on Black Friday. It’s why they play the game.
Let’s play two
A look at Friday’s playoff rematches
Newsome (7-4) at Durant (11-0)
Frequency: Third meeting in 13 months (Durant has won past two)
Last meeting: Durant, 38-28 (Oct. 18). Cougars senior Jamarlon Hamilton ran for 165 yards
Armwood (8-3) at Hillsborough (9-1)
Frequency: Fourth meeting in two seasons (Armwood has won two of past three)
Last meeting: Hillsborough, 3-0 (Oct. 18). Hawks guilty of three consecutive personal fouls on game’s lone scoring drive
Lakewood (10-1) at Robinson (10-1)
Frequency: Third meeting in 13 months (Robinson has won past two)
Last meeting: Robinson, 19-8 (Oct. 26). Knights scored game’s first 19 points
Tampa Catholic (8-3) at Clearwater Central Catholic (10-1)
Frequency: Third meeting in 13 months (CCC has won past two)
Last meeting: CCC, 27-7 (Oct. 5). Marauders held Crusaders to 79 total yards
Staff writers Joel Anderson, Rodney Page and Bob Putnam contributed to this report. Joey Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.