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Gaither upset of Plant City gives playoff hopes a surge

CARROLLWOOD — Gaither coach Mark Kantor said this season he wants to get his program back to playing "Gaither football."

The Cowboys certainly have taken steps in that direction — most notably last week in a 20-7 upset against a solid Plant City team.

Using the strong defense, good passing and special teams formula, Gaither is 3-4 this season and a district win away from being a player in the Class 5A, District 5 race.

The Cowboys have been led by quarterback Shug Oyegunle and his stable of receivers, including Joel Paredes, Josh Pernes, Mitch McNall and Carlo Perello, who had two key catches and a touchdown in the win against Plant City.

Linebacker Josh Scarberry has been a playmaker on defense, leading the unit that forced seven turnovers last week.

A win tonight against Chamberlain could set up a winner-goes-to-the postseason game Nov. 5 at home against Alonso (as long as the Ravens lose to Plant tonight).

And that Alonso-Plant game is just one of several with big district implications tonight. Other contests include Jefferson playing at Spoto for the top spot in Class 3A-8, Wharton and Freedom trying to stay in the 5A-7 race and newcomers Steinbrenner and Strawberry Crest trying to make noise in Class 2A-5.

Also, Sickles aims to inch closer to a 4A-10 playoff spot tonight against Leto.

All games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Gaither (3-4, 0-1) at Chamberlain (1-6, 0-1)

Last Week: Gaither defeated Plant City, 20-7; Chamberlain lost to Armwood, 52-0.

Last Year: Chamberlain defeated Gaither, 13-6.

The Skinny: Opportunistic Gaither is back in the Class 5A, District 5 race. Chamberlain, now on a five-game losing streak, continues to struggle.

The Edge: A Gaither win tonight means the Nov. 5 showdown versus Alonso could be for a playoff berth.

Wharton (1-5, 0-1) at Freedom (2-4, 0-1)

Last Week: Freedom defeated Bloomingdale, 33-12; Wharton was off.

Last Year: Freedom defeated Wharton, 16-7.

The Skinny: Freedom found its offense in a win last week against Bloomingdale. Wharton's offense continues to struggle, averaging just one touchdown per contest.

The Edge: This is the last chance for one of these teams, likely Freedom, to figure in the Class 5A-7 race.

Plant (5-2, 1-0) at Alonso (2-4, 0-1)

Last Week: Alonso was off; Plant defeated Spoto, 36-20.

Last Year: Plant defeated Alonso, 57-21.

The Skinny: Plant got past a tough Spoto team last week. Alonso has had two weeks to prepare for its biggest game of the year — and a chance to make a statement in Class 5A-5.

The Edge: Plant still rules the roost in this district.

Jefferson (6-0, 2-0) at Spoto (5-2, 2-0)

Last Week: Spoto lost to Plant, 36-20; Jefferson was off.

Last Year: Jefferson defeated Spoto, 24-21.

The Skinny: Jefferson is out to secure its spot at the top of Class 3A, District 8. Spoto, meanwhile, is coming off a tough loss at Plant and has its own 3A-8 plans.

The Edge: The winner of this game will be on track for the district crown. Jefferson wins a close one.

Leto (0-7, 0-2) at Sickles (4-3, 1-1)

Last Week: Leto lost to Newsome, 57-8; Sickles lost to Durant, 28-6.

Last Year: Sickles defeated Leto, 38-0.

The Skinny: Leto scored its first touchdown of the year last week — a 20-yard pass from Marcus Robinson to tight end David McPherson. Sickles needs to shake off last week's pounding and focus on its District 4A-10 goal of a postseason berth.

The Edge: Sickles can clinch a postseason position with a win and a Largo win against Boca Ciega.

Steinbrenner (3-3, 2-1) at Strawberry Crest (3-3, 1-2)

Last Week: Steinbrenner defeated Middleton, 27-24; Strawberry Crest lost to Jesuit, 28-7.

Last Year: The teams played twice last season: Steinbrenner beat Strawberry Crest, 16-8; Strawberry Crest defeated Steinbrenner, 32-27.

The Skinny: Hillsborough County's newest football programs have taken huge steps this year — both squads' first full varsity season. And Steinbrenner has played its way into the Class 2A-5 playoff picture. Strawberry Crest is not far off but needs a win in the crowded seven-team district.

The Edge: Steinbrenner will have to play as well as it did last week to top Strawberry Crest.

Rod Gipson can be reached at hills

Gaither upset of Plant City gives playoff hopes a surge 10/21/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 21, 2010 4:30am]
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