MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
Seen the slate of prep football action for this week? Huge games, monstrous, with Grade-A stakes. The lineup's so darn bodacious, schedule makers couldn't wait 'til Friday so they moved nearly every contest up 24 hours (Okay, the arrival of Yom Kippur also may have played a role.). As for us? We can't wait either. We're up for some Monday morning cornerback, to blanket-cover every implication for the week's biggest games (Actually, they're all pretty big, but these are the biggest.). Down, set, hype:
Hillsborough (4-1, 2-0) at Jefferson (1-3, 0-2)
Why it's big: Because if you follow conventional wisdom, which says Armwood will run the table in this district, the No. 2 playoff spot will come down to the Terriers, Dragons and Sickles. See where we're going with this?
Did you know? A triumph would be the 199th of Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia's tenure
Armwood (5-0, 2-0) at Sickles (4-0, 1-0)
Why it's big: Because these are the only two remaining undefeated teams in the "District of Death." Sickles likely will be vying with Jefferson and Hillsborough for the district's second playoff spot, but don't totally discount them in this game. It was only two autumns ago that Armwood escaped with a 22-9 playoff triumph against the Gryphons.
Did you know? Armwood's defense hasn't allowed a point in 16 consecutive quarters, dating to Aug. 26
Durant (3-1, 1-0) at Plant City (4-0, 1-0)
Why it's big: Quick math lesson: what happens if you have three playoff-caliber football teams but only two playoff spots? One gets left behind. Plant City, with its high-octane offense, has been considered the frontrunner in the district, but the Raiders, with their superior athletes, have lost to district foe Newsome three years in a row. If you're Durant, this is a chance, win or loss, to show that you're not planning on being left behind come playoff time.
Did you know? Speaking of defense, Plant City has allowed 20 points in its first four games. No opponent has hung more than seven on the Raiders all year.
Steinbrenner (3-1, 1-0) at Gaither (2-2, 1-0)
Why it's big: In the county's most wide-open district, this one ultimately could determine a playoff spot. Four teams appear to have bona fide chances to get out of this district, but it's looking like Tampa Bay Tech, Steinbrenner and Gaither represent the upper tier.
Did you know? The Warriors have won five of their last six dating to the end of 2010
Clearwater Central Catholic (4-1, 0-0) at Tampa Catholic (4-0, 0-0), Friday
Why it's big: Like 7A-8, there's three good teams for only two playoff spots. Berkeley Prep, with it's No. 4 ranking in the AP 3A state poll and do-it-all superstar Nelson Agholor, is considered the favorite. That leaves Tampa Catholic and Clearwater Central Catholic to a) upset Berkeley and/or b) avoid losing to each other. It would be far more realistic for both teams to go with plan b.
Did you know? CCC coach John Davis' last win against TC was exactly 10 seasons ago
Carrollwood Day (3-2, 1-2) at Canterbury (4-1, 3-1), Friday
Why it's big: In a top-heavy, nine-team district, two losses doesn't necessarily eliminate you. That said, this is a must-win for the Patriots, whose playoff pulse will be erratic at best with a defeat.
Did you know: CDS lost its only two previous games against Canterbury
--Joey Knight and Laura Keeley