CARROLLWOOD — Now that all of the North Tampa area prep football teams have fully ventured into district play, this much is a fact:
Eight of nine squads technically are still alive for a playoff spot. Of those eight, probably four or five have a shot — with two schools, Alonso and Sickles, just one district win away from securing a postseason spot. Jefferson still needs at least two more district wins to nail down a berth.
So what does that leave?
A lot of teams scrapping for playoff positions through the rest of October.
Despite overall losing records, Gaither, Chamberlain, Freedom and Alonso have played better in recent weeks. Gaither (2-4 overall) went toe-to-toe with defending state champs Plant before falling 24-16 last week in their league opener. Alonso (2-4) had to fight off Chamberlain (1-5) 28-21, and Freedom (1-4) missed tons of chances in its 21-14 loss to Tampa Bay Tech.
Alonso's big win gives it an edge for the second playoff spot in Class 5A-5, but Gaither and Chamberlain aren't finished just yet. Sickles and Jefferson control their fate in 4A-10 and 3A-8, respectively. And Steinbrenner, with a huge win against St. Petersburg Catholic last week, is making noise in Class 2A-5.
Leto has been eliminated from playoff contention, and Wharton appears headed in that direction.
Although district meetings are scarce tonight, teams will be looking for solid performances to prep for the playoff push. Jefferson, Alonso and Wharton are off tonight. All games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Chamberlain (1-5, 0-1) at Armwood (5-0, 1-0)
Last Week: Chamberlain lost to Alonso, 28-21; Armwood defeated King, 41-0.
Last Year: Armwood beat Chamberlain, 53-0.
The Skinny: Chamberlain is on a four-game losing streak but has shown fight during the past two weeks. Armwood's defense has allowed 13 points in five games this season.
The Edge: The Chiefs will have to show plenty of that fight this week to compete with an Armwood team that may be headed to a state title.
Freedom (1-4, 0-1) at Bloomingdale (1-4, 0-2)
Last Week: Freedom lost to Tampa Bay Tech, 21-14; Bloomingdale lost to Plant City, 37-0.
Last Year: Freedom beat Bloomingdale, 32-19.
The Skinny: The Patriots are on a four-game slide. Bloomingdale, meanwhile, has scored just 16 points in its four losses this season.
The Edge: One of these teams has to bust out of its slump. It will be Freedom.
Plant City (4-2, 1-1) at Gaither (2-4, 0-2)
Last Week: Plant City defeated Bloomingdale, 37-0; Gaither lost to Plant, 24-16.
Last Year: Plant City beat Gaither, 28-0.
The Skinny: Plant City's Dazmond Patterson ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns in a big win last week. Gaither is encouraged by its play, hanging tough with the defending state champ Plant before falling a week ago.
The Edge: Gaither likely will play tough again before slipping late.
Newsome (3-3, 1-1) at Leto (0-6, 0-2)
Last Week: Newsome lost to Robinson, 28-14; Leto lost to Largo, 55-0.
Last Year: Newsome beat Leto, 20-3.
The Skinny: Newsome is trying to bounce back after its tough loss to Robinson. Leto, meanwhile, is looking for points. The Falcons have zero points after six games this year. They had 60 points — and one win — after six games last season.
The Edge: Newsome. Newsome. Newsome.
Sickles (4-2, 1-1) at Durant (4-2, 2-0)
Last Week: Sickles beat Boca Ciega, 17-16; Durant defeated Riverview, 49-0.
Last Year: Durant beat Sickles, 20-15.
The Skinny: Sickles RB Cary White ran for a career-best 244 yards last week while helping the Gryphons salvage postseason hopes. Durant's duo of Je'Twan Smith and Jarmarlon Hamilton combined for five touchdowns in their big win against the Sharks.
The Edge: Durant is one of the county's more underrated teams and should give Sickles a tough time.
Steinbrenner (2-3, 1-1) at Middleton (2-3, 2-1)
Last Week: Steinbrenner beat St. Petersburg Catholic, 31-14; Middleton defeated Strawberry Crest, 31-14.
Last Year: Middleton defeated Steinbrenner, 63-7.
The Skinny: Shyheem Bartheo, a 14-year-old freshman, was a hero for Steinbrenner last week, running for 100 yards and a score. With two straight district wins, Middleton is right in the thick of the Class 2A-5 race.
The Edge: This being a 2A-5 league game, a win for Middleton could be huge in its playoff push. That should be enough incentive for the Tigers.
Rod Gipson can be reached at email@example.com.