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 firstname.lastname@example.org.