TAMPA — Just call tonight's Lakewood at Robinson game the other big one.
While much of the county will be focused on the nondistrict battle of the unbeatens taking place between Plant and Armwood, Lakewood and Robinson meet in a game that actually has larger implications.
Jesuit topped Lakewood in St. Petersburg 33-19 last week to earn the Class 5A, District 8 championship. That leaves either Lakewood or Robinson in line to grab the district's other playoff ticket, depending on who wins the game tonight.
Robinson's defense will have to contain the bay area's leading passer and receiver in the Spartans' combo of QB Tracy Johnson (21 TD passes) and WR Rodney Adams (25 catches, 742 yards, 10 TDs). But the Knights have their own offensive firepower, having averaged 40 points a game during their current four-game winning streak thanks in part to quarterback Vidal Woodruff.
Other interesting matchups tonight have Alonso, trying to shake off a two-game losing streak, playing at Tampa Catholic, King and Hillsborough in a Class 6A-8 meeting, resurgent Gaither at Chamberlain in 7A-7, Carrollwood Day traveling to Indian Rocks Christian in a 2A-5 clash and Berkeley Prep hosting Orlando First Academy in a nondistrict game.
All kickoff are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Plant (7-0) at Armwood (8-0)
LAST WEEK: Plant beat Alonso 48-6 and the Hawks defeated Hillsborough 38-16.
THE SKINNY: Every year, the hype machine gets rolling on Monday and this season is no different. These two powerhouses don't share the same classification, but this is as close to a playoff atmosphere in a nonplayoff game as possible. Plant has steadily gotten better each week, and first-year starting QB James Few has looked good, but they have not yet seen a defense as dominating as the Hawks. Venerable Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia called this 2011 unit the best one Armwood has ever had.
Lakewood (6-1) at Robinson (6-1)
LAST WEEK: Lakewood lost to Jesuit 33-19; Robinson defeated Spoto 34-14.
THE SKINNY: With Jesuit wrapping up the district crown, this game will be for the Class 5A, District 8 runner-up spot and accompanying playoff berth.
Alonso (5-2) at Tampa Catholic (6-1)
LAST WEEK: Alonso lost to Plant 48-6; Tampa Catholic defeated St. Petersburg Catholic 70-7.
THE SKINNY: A break from district games for both teams still battling for playoff spots. Alonso needs to look sharper after two straight blowout losses. TC may be eyeing its huge district showdown with Berkeley Prep next week.
King (3-4) at Hillsborough (6-2)
LAST GAMES: King lost to Jefferson 29-16 on Oct. 14; Hillsborough lost to Armwood 38-16 last week.
THE SKINNY: Despite Hillsborough's loss to powerhouse Armwood last week, the Terriers still own the second playoff berth in 6A-8. Tonight, Hillsborough's defense will try to defend one of the area's top passers in King QB Greg Windham (19 TDs).
Blake (3-5) at Wharton (3-4)
LAST WEEK: Blake defeated Lennard 32-7; Wharton defeated Bloomingdale 49-24
THE SKINNY: Despite his team's struggles this season, Blake QB Zain Gilmore is among the bay area's leaders with 1,300 yards and 12 TDs. Wharton's Darius Page is coming off a 251-yards rushing, three-TD performance in the Wildcats' win against Bloomingdale.
Dunedin (2-5) at Middleton (0-6)
LAST GAMES: Dunedin lost to Jesuit 48-21 on Oct. 14; Middleton lost to Gibbs 20-17 last week.
THE SKINNY: Two struggling offenses in the lower half of Class 5A, District 8. Middleton's defense, which has yielded almost four touchdowns per game, will try to defend its turf enough to get the Tigers their first win of the season.
Gibbs (3-4) at Jesuit (7-1)
LAST WEEK: Gibbs defeated Middleton 20-17; Jesuit defeated Lakewood 33-19.
THE SKINNY: After dropping their opener to undefeated Plant, the Tigers have been on fire. Winners of seven in a row, sentiment was tempered a bit after a sloppy win against Lakewood last week. Either way, Jesuit managed to overcome 18 penalties against the Spartans and clinch a playoff berth.
Leto (0-8) at Jefferson (3-4)
LAST WEEK: Leto lost to Strawberry Crest 37-32; Jefferson defeated Sickles 22-0.
THE SKINNY: Jefferson has looked more like the Dragons of old in recent weeks, evening its district mark to 2-2. Make that 3-2 after tonight's tilt with the Falcons.
Tampa Bay Tech (4-3) at Freedom (1-7)
LAST WEEK: Tampa Bay Tech defeated Steinbrenner 35-25; Freedom lost to Gaither 37-0.
THE SKINNY: Tech is coming into this Class 7A, District 7 game with two straight wins for the first time all season. Tech will host Gaither next week to settle the 7A-7 title. Freedom is looking to close out a miserable season with strong efforts.
Times correspondent Brandon Wright contributed to this report. Rod Gipson can be reached at [email protected]