TAMPA — It's not like they didn't know this was coming.
Chamberlain's dominant 42-21 victory against Wharton in the Class 5A regional football semifinals earned the Chiefs a trip to Lakeland tonight. And not that the team is looking ahead, but Chamberlain has had more than a peek at the Lakeland Dreadnaughts this season.
Chamberlain (11-1) has seen plenty of tape of Lakeland (12-0) this week — in addition to catching the Dreadnaughts' 15-14 victory over Lake Gibson on cable last month.
What did they see?
A team with a talented offense that's averaging 30 points a game, a stout defense that has yielded just 131 points in 12 games and plenty of history. Lakeland, ranked ninth nationally by USA Today, has five state championships, including titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Chamberlain will counter the way it has all season, with an outstanding offense led by quarterback Dontae Aycock and a solid defense of its own. In two playoff games, Chamberlain outscored its opponents, 96-27.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Class 5A, Region 2 final
at Lakeland (12-0)
Last Week: Chamberlain defeated Wharton, 42-21; Lakeland defeated Kissimmee Osceola, 20-16.
Previous Playoff Meetings: Chamberlain is part of Lakeland's playoff history, losing to the Dreadnaughts three times in the past seven years. Lakeland beat the Chiefs, 49-0, in the 2005 Class 5A regional semifinals and 35-24 in the 2004 quarterfinals. The Dreadnaughts also topped Chamberlain, 29-14, in the regional semifinals in 2002.
The Skinny: Aycock, the Chiefs' quarterback, has accounted for 2,762 yards of offense this season with a hand in 42 touchdowns (26 rushing, 16 passing). Mindful of last year's playoff loss, head coach Billy Turner has kept the Chiefs on an even keel.
Aycock's weapons include Kenny Allen (1,297 yards rushing) and Anthony Williams (37 receptions, 13 touchdowns). Linebackers Deandre Hall (101 tackles) and James Wilder (135 tackles, 14 sacks) anchor the defense along with defensive back Chris Frierson (76 tackles, five interceptions and two fumble recoveries).
Lakeland has weapons galore on offense, starting with quarterback Jarred Haggins. He can spread the ball around to running backs Aaron Truedell or Rodney Watson or throw to standout wide receiver Javares McRoy.
The Edge: When Chamberlain rolls into Bryant Stadium in Lakeland tonight, the team will face about 6,000 screaming Dreadnaught fans, booming cannons and Lakeland highlights on a video scoreboard.
Still, though outstanding, this isn't the usual steamroller Lakeland team of years past. The Dreadnaughts trailed by 10 last week before rallying for a 4-point win.
If Aycock and the Chiefs' offense get going early, they can control the game and get out of Lakeland with a huge victory.