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Every possible scenario can play out in 5A-9

Dunedin started the season 3-0 and seemed on its way to winning a school-record third straight district football title.

Until …

The Falcons lost to Countryside in Week 4. That win put the Cougars on top in the district and in prime position for a playoff berth.

Until …

Countryside lost to Palm Harbor University in Week 6.

Welcome to Class 5A, District 9 football, where the standings change on a weekly basis.

Which teams don't have a shot at the playoffs? Not many in this wacky district where teams are usually only a week from turning things around.

On Friday, two games will determine the champion and runnerup: Dunedin at Palm Harbor University and Countryside at East Lake.

The only sure thing is if PHU (6-2, 3-0) wins, it is the district champion. Everything else is a free for all.

Consider the scenarios:

• If Dunedin (6-2, 2-1) and Countryside (5-3, 2-1) win, there is a three-way tie for first and second with both schools and Palm Harbor University.

• If Dunedin and Countryside lose, there is a three-way tie for second between both schools and East Lake (3-5, 1-2).

• If Dunedin loses and Countryside wins, PHU is the champion and Countryside is runnerup.

• If Dunedin wins and Countryside loses, Dunedin is the champion and PHU is runnerup.

"We have had some different scenarios for playoff berths in the past, but nothing like this," East Lake coach Bob Hudson said. "This is crazy."

For years, 5A-9 has been about the old-school programs, with the traditional powers Countryside, Dunedin and East Lake fixtures at the top of the standings.

That figured to be the case again this season with Countryside and Dunedin getting off to fast starts and East Lake staying in the mix.

Then along came an interloper to throw a wrench into this throwback district.

Palm Harbor U. always was considered an afterthought, never with a winning season or playoff spot.

And there was no reason to suspect PHU would make any significant turnaround after starting 0-2.

But the Hurricanes bounced back with a few wins. Then they had their breakthrough, a game in which all the planning and working and dreaming came together on one glorious night: PHU beat Countryside 28-21 in overtime on Oct. 10. It marked the first time the Hurricanes had beaten their rival.

"The biggest win of our lives," PHU quarterback Sean Shelton said.

After that upset, things got a lot more confusing.

"I don't think anyone counted on PHU being there," Countryside coach John Davis said. "But that's a credit to them. They've done a great job this season."

The Hurricanes have won a school-record six straight games and are the only team that controls its destiny.

Whatever the other scenarios, 5A-9 likely will do a lot of teeth gnashing to figure out who keeps playing.

"It's tough to figure out what position we want to be in," Davis said. "Do we want to go into the playoffs as the runnerup and be guaranteed a spot. Or do we want to try to win out in a tiebreaker.

"I guess we'll be happy just to be there in the end."

Every possible scenario can play out in 5A-9 11/05/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 7, 2008 10:19pm]
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