TAMPA — Week 11 in high school football is the ultimate mixed bag.
Some teams have checked out, knowing they won't be headed to the playoffs and frankly not having much to play for. Others are headed to the playoffs, but don't want to risk injury to key players, which can result in less-than-scintillating performances.
But the regular season does end with some natural rivalries, such as Jesuit vs. Tampa Catholic. There also is Plant vs. Robinson, a matchup between two playoff-bound — and some might predict, state title-bound — programs. All games kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Plant (8-1) at Robinson (9-0)
Last week: Plant defeated Bloomingdale 51-20; Robinson defeated Middleton 42-21.
Why you should go: Robinson has everything lined up for a state title run, including home field advantage all the way up to the final. But if the Knights lose this one there could be a tiny bit of remorse. Plant should have the advantage in this matchup, with its defense and depth, but as far as the number of big playmakers, that edge goes to the hosts. Oh, if you haven't gotten tickets yet, by the time you read this you might be too late.
Jesuit (6-3) at Tampa Catholic (7-2)
Last week: Jesuit was idle; Tampa Catholic defeated Berkeley Prep 33-7.
Why you should go: How many years in a row did Tampa Catholic seem to have the better team, only to lose to its arch rival? Again, this seems to be one of those years, with the Crusaders hoping for a better result. Jesuit will miss out on the playoffs after a nice three-year run, while Tampa Catholic is heading back. Naturally, the Tigers have motivation, which might give them a slight edge. This is another game that requires early arrival.
Hillsborough (7-1) at Chamberlain (4-5)
Last week: Hillsborough was idle; Chamberlain lost to Steinbrenner 35-28.
Why you should go: Want to see a team play with a BIG load off its shoulders? Try Hillsborough, which during its bye week was in limbo, dreading it would go from having wrapped up a district title to having to play for it again via a three-way tiebreaker. Everything hinged on a ruling involving Jefferson High's use of an ineligible player. But by Monday, the Terriers were still champs, allowing them to put full focus into getting ready for the playoffs. Chamberlain, meanwhile, would have loved to play in a tiebreaker Monday, but lost that chance when Steinbrenner knocked off the Chiefs.
Brandon (1-8) at Jefferson (5-4)
Last week: Brandon lost to East Bay 7-6; Jefferson defeated Strawberry Crest 35-31.
Why you should go: The Dragons will be looking to finish the season on a five-game roll. Last week's victory was a last-minute thriller.
King (2-7) at Durant (9-0)
Last week: King lost to Armwood 19-8; Durant defeated Riverview 57-27.
Why you should go: To see if Durant can finish 10-0 for the first time. Durant, keyed by a workmanlike defense and a dynamite running back tandem of Jamarlon Hamilton and Chris Atkins, has had very few challenges this season. If you haven't been keeping track, no other Hillsborough County team is undefeated besides the Cougars and Robinson. Meanwhile, King put a big-time scare into Armwood and actually took an 8-6 lead in the fourth quarter on a safety.
TBT (6-3) at Plant City (4-5)
Last week: TBT lost to Gaither 35-32; Plant City lost to Newsome 40-7.
Why you should go: Oh, the Titans will be eager to hit the field for this one. They nearly pulled off an unbelievable comeback against Gaither, down 35-10 and getting down to the Gaither 5-yard line before fumbling with 14 seconds left. A Titans win would have given them the district title, knocked Gaither out (instead the Cowboys are champs) and Chamberlain would've made it as runnerup. Plant City has had a rough go after a 3-1 start and had no luck stopping the run last week, so the Titans should have similar success.
Steinbrenner (4-5) at Middleton (2-7)
Last week: Steinbrenner defeated Chamberlain 35-31; Middleton lost to Robinson 42-21.
Why you should go: To see a Tigers team that has been very entertaining in spots this season. Scoring 21 points against that ferocious Robinson defense last week was not a bad effort.