The ninth week of the high school football season is when it gets serious. There are three Fridays left before the playoffs start, but the next two determine the field. And in some cases, toss in Monday, Nov. 4 as a possible date to play.
That's for the districts where three or more teams tie for a potential playoff spot. So this week, we give you the playoff hopes of any team that technically still has them.
All kickoffs 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Jesuit (5-3) is idle.
Plant (6-1-1, 3-0 in District 8A-6) at Wharton (6-2, 2-1)
Last week: Plant defeated Newsome 30-14, Wharton lost to Alonso 33-15.
Why you should go: It's always nice to have the district championship in your pocket three weeks before the playoffs start, and that's what the Panthers will have with a win. This was supposed to be the battle for the top spot but Alonso's win over Wharton, after Alonso came in with an 0-2 league mark, has put the Wildcats in scramble mode. It's not even a must-win mode by the way, because if Wharton loses it still plays Bloomingdale the following week and could force a tiebreaker for second. Technically, five teams (Newsome is the other) could still gain a playoff spot. If Plant loses then the possibilities are endless, so be assured the Panthers want to avoid that scenario.
Spoto (0-7, 0-1 in 5A-9) at Middleton (2-5, 0-1)
Last week: Spoto lost to Plant City 33-14, Middleton defeated Leto 42-7.
Why you should go: Middleton is playoff-bound with a victory, is that enough reason for you? With a three-team district there are only so many possibilities, and Middleton makes it easy with a win: the Tigers are in, and the winner of the Middleton-Jesuit game next week will be the district champion while the loser takes the runnerup spot. Should Middleton slip up it would have to beat Jesuit, and that would be just to force a three-way tiebreaker.
Tampa Bay Tech (6-1, 3-0 in 7A-7) at Gaither (2-1, 3-4)
Last week: TBT defeated Freedom 22-3, Gaither lost to Sickles 48-6.
Why you should go: To make sure the Titans are safely in the postseason, which would be the case with a victory. Then (and only then) shall Titans supporters appropriately gear up for a big clash with Sickles. If Sickles handles Wiregrass Ranch, which is winless in district play, it will mean both TBT and Sickles are in, with their game next week to decide who gets the championship spot and homefield advantage to start the playoffs. Should the Titans slip up, they would either have to beat Sickles or hope Gaither loses to Steinbrenner.
Lakeland Christian (6-1, 2-1 in 3A-4) at Tampa Catholic (6-1, 3-0), 7 p.m.
Last week: LCS lost to Frostproof 55-13, TC defeated Berkeley Prep 17-10
Why you should go: An impressive sweep of the district's three Polk County teams would also lock up the title for the state No. 1-ranked Crusaders. It has not been easy, especially last week when TC needed a last-minute answer to Berkeley's tying score, but then again this district is not easy. It appears LCS's 6-0 start was a bit misleading because last week the Vikings were no match for Frostproof. Should the Crusaders slip up, they could still win the district if Fort Meade takes down LCS next week. Frostproof, Fort Meade and LCS are all still in the running for the two playoff spots and none of those teams is worse than 6-2 on the season.
Chamberlain (4-4, 4-2 in 6A-8) at Jefferson (6-1, 5-1)
Last week: Chamberlain lost to Robinson 13-12, Jefferson defeated King 40-16
Why you should go: Jefferson clinches a playoff spot with a win, but even if the Dragons falter they would still only need Armwood to knock off Chamberlain next week. Either way, runnerup is the best the Dragons can do unless Armwood somehow loses twice. Chamberlain could have made this much more interesting but lost last week on a failed two-point conversion at the end of the game. Jefferson is up to fourth in the state rankings, with Armwood second and powerhouse Miami Central in the top spot.
King (5-3, 2-3 in 6A-8) at Armwood (7-0, 6-0)
Last week: King lost to Jefferson 40-16, Armwood defeated Lennard 49-6.
Why you should go: The King Lions were realistically eliminated from contention last week but still have a winning record to play for — and that would be saying something. So would a win over Armwood. King has Leto next week, so things look good for the team.
Blake (2-6, 2-4 in 6A-8) at Robinson (3-5, 3-3)
Last week: Blake lost to Hillsborough 52-21
Why you should go: Robinson is not officially out of the running, and although the Knights don't need anything as crazy as an Armwood loss, it doesn't look good. The Knights have to beat Blake and Hillsborough, and hope that Jefferson will slip up twice. Still, the possibility of a 5-5 finish exists — not bad after an 0-4 start.
Durant (2-6) at Hillsborough (5-2)
Last week: Hillsborough defeated Blake 52-21
Why you should go: To see the Terriers play a nondistrict game! Really! But you can bet the Terriers will be honed in on the Jefferson-Chamberlain game, a Jefferson defeat being Hillsborough's only hope of staying alive for a playoff spot. It would put the Terriers in a three-way tie for second with those two teams, but unfortunately for Hillsborough, it would probably be temporary. Chamberlain looks primed to drop out of the tie when it plays Armwood. And since Jefferson beat Hillsborough head-to-head way back in week two, the Dragons would advance as runnerup. With the way QB Dwayne Lawson is playing, it's just a shame that Hillsborough, which has a very good chance of being 8-2, won't get to the playoffs with that mark.