TAMPA — Apparently a year doesn't make a lot of difference.
Just ask Sickles and Alonso.
A year ago, the two teams battled on the regular season's final Friday night for the second playoff spot in Class 5A, District 6. A last-second field goal handed Sickles an 18-15 win, sending the Gryphons to their first-ever playoff appearance.
Tonight, the two will meet again under similar circumstances.
At 6-3 overall and 1-1 in the district, Alonso has played better overall but is tied with Sickles (3-6, 1-1) for second place. Chamberlain already has claimed the district title.
Alonso, behind standout quarterback C.J. Bennett, won six of its first seven games. But the Ravens have lost two in a row, including last week's 41-21 setback at Jefferson.
Sickles, meanwhile, started the season 1-6 but got positioned for a postseason berth by winning its last two games.
That sets up tonight's game at Alonso and its winner-take-all prize for the second straight season.
Another huge district matchup has Gaither playing at Wharton with the Class 5A, District 5 title on the line. Wharton (7-2, 2-0) and Gaither (4-5, 2-0) have clinched playoff spots. This meeting will determine the district champ and who opens the playoffs at home. That was a huge issue last year: Wharton began the playoffs on the road and lost while Gaither enjoyed a first-round win at home.
In other contests, Jefferson hosts Plant to decide the Class 4A-10 champ, Freedom plays at East Bay and Chamberlain hosts King. All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Sickles (3-6, 1-1) at Alonso (6-3, 1-1)
Last Week: Sickles beat Blake, 17-14; Alonso lost to Jefferson, 41-21.
Last Year: Sickles beat Alonso, 18-15.
The Skinny: Winner takes second place in Class 5A-6 and advances to the postseason. Led by a defense that has improved in the second half of the season, Sickles has put itself in position for a second-straight playoff appearance. Alonso, meanwhile, is 6-0 when scoring 22 points or more. And 0-3 when it doesn't.
The Edge: Revenge for last season: Alonso wins and grabs the playoff spot.
King (3-5, 0-2) at Chamberlain (8-1, 2-0)
Last Week: King beat Leto, 28-14; Chamberlain lost to Plant, 27-13.
Last Year: Chamberlain beat King, 42-3.
The Skinny: Chamberlain will be in a foul mood after its high-profile, nondistrict loss last week to Plant. King has won two of its last three games after four straight losses.
The Edge: Chamberlain and quarterback Dontae Aycock rebound in a big way, and the Chiefs roll.
Freedom (2-6) at East Bay (3-5)
Last Week: Freedom lost to Armwood, 31-14; East Bay lost to Newsome, 17-12.
Last Year: East Bay beat Freedom, 31-27.
The Skinny: A battle of two teams that expected to have better seasons. Both have played well at times this season. Freedom quarterback Josh Grady threw 39 passes last week, completing 19 for 130 yards and a touchdown. East Bay won three of its first four before losing four in a row.
The Edge: East Bay's defense has been suspect this season. Not a good sign against a Freedom offense that can move the ball up and down the field. Freedom wins.
Gaither (4-5, 2-0) at Wharton (7-2, 2-0)
Last Week: Gaither lost to Hillsborough 31-14; Wharton beat Riverview, 36-17.
Last Year: Gaither beat Wharton, 16-14.
The Skinny: Gaither is the best sub-.500 team in the county. Meanwhile, has there been a quieter dominant team than Wharton?
The Edge: Gaither has the potent running in Jarvis Giles, but Wharton's defense has only allowed more than 21 points once during its seven-game winning streak. Make that an eight-game winning streak.
Plant (7-1, 2-0) at Jefferson (5-3, 2-0)
Last Week: Plant beat Chamberlain, 27-13; Jefferson beat Alonso, 41-21.
Last Year: Plant beat Jefferson, 54-21.
The Skinny: Winner takes the Class 4A-10 title. Plant showed its mettle by beating Chamberlain last week. Jefferson, meanwhile, had its own impressive win, taking Alonso in a shootout. Jefferson has topped 50 points twice in the past two weeks.
The Edge: The Dragons won't get near 50 points tonight against the Plant defense, which will help the Panthers to a victory.
Leto (2-7, 0-2) at Blake (1-8, 0-2)
Last Week: Leto lost to King, 28-14; Blake lost to Sickles, 17-14.
Last Year: Blake beat Leto, 10-3.
The Skinny: Struggling programs end another disappointing season with one last chance to post a win. Leto has played well offensively at times this season. Blake, meanwhile, has been held to 10 or fewer points six times this season.
The Edge: Leto ends on a high note.