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North Tampa teams set sights on playoffs

CARROLLWOOD

North Tampa is alive and well with prep football playoff possibilities.

Heading into tonight, the only sure thing is that Jefferson (Class 3A-8 champs) and Sickles (Class 4A-10 runners-up) have spots in the playoffs.

Alonso and Freedom are likely headed there. Wharton and even one-win Gaither and Chamberlain have faint playoff pulses.

Here's how it breaks down:

If Alonso defeats Gaither tonight, Alonso is in the Class 5A playoffs. But if Gaither or Chamberlain, who plays district frontrunner and heavily favored Plant, were to win, that would set up scenarios with three-team tiebreakers involving three of the four teams (Plant, Gaither, Alonso, Chamberlain) in Class 5A-5.

It's a similar situation in Class 5A, District 7.

The simplest scenario tonight is that Tampa Bay Tech will defeat Wharton, and Freedom will beat Brandon. A win would crown Tech as district champs and Freedom as the runner-up.

Any other outcome, and that district also will see a three-team tiebreaker.

In other games, Jefferson plays at Blake, Leto hosts Middleton and Steinbrenner wraps up its inaugural season at home against Lennard. Sickles is off.

All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

MIDDLETON (5-3) at LETO (1-7)

Last week: Middleton lost to Jesuit 42-17; Leto lost to Freedom 39-0.

Last year: Did not play.

The skinny: Although the Tigers are headed to a fourth-straight season without the playoffs, Middleton has played well under first-year coach Jason Stokes. Leto arguably might be the most disappointing team in the county this season.

The edge: Middleton is still playing hard while Leto has been outscored 97-3 in its last three games. Middleton adds to the total.

GAITHER (1-7, 0-2 in Class 5A, District 5) at ALONSO (3-5, 1-1 in 5A-5)

Last week: Alonso lost to Sickles 41-21; Gaither lost to Armwood 52-0.

Last year: Alonso beat Gaither 34-24.

The skinny: The Cowboys appear to still be reeling from their loss to then-winless Chamberlain two weeks ago. Alonso, meanwhile, is trying to shake off the funk of four losses in its last five games.

The edge: Alonso has to take advantage of what could be its last chance for this year's playoffs.

PLANT (6-1, 2-0 in 5A-5) at CHAMBERLAIN (1-8, 1-1 in 5A-5)

Last week: Chamberlain lost to Brandon 6-0; Plant was off.

Last year: Plant defeated Chamberlain 27-13.

The skinny: Plant is among the best teams in the state, much less the bay area. Chamberlain is just trying to build on solid performances the past two weeks.

The edge: The Panthers may pull back some — but only a little. Plant wins.

WHARTON (2-6, 1-1 in 5A-7) at TAMPA BAY TECH (6-1, 2-0 in 5A-7)

Last week: Wharton lost to East Bay 34-17; Tech was off.

Last year: Did not play.

The skinny: Wharton hasn't won a game in almost a month but somehow still is fighting for a postseason berth. Tech, led by a potent running attack, has been strong all season.

The edge: Tech, Tech, Tech.

JEFFERSON (6-1, 4-0 in 3A-8) at BLAKE (1-7, 1-3 in 3A-8)

Last week: Jefferson defeated Dixie Hollins 63-3; Blake lost to Lakewood 46-0.

Last year: Jefferson defeated Blake 50-12.

The skinny: Jefferson quarterback Quentin Williams has a county-best 22 touchdown passes. Blake, meanwhile, has perhaps the county's best marching band.

The edge: Already crowned as district champs, Jefferson's reserves may see plenty of action in this victory.

BRANDON (2-6, 0-2 in 5A-7) at FREEDOM 5-2, 1-1 in 5A-7)

Last week: Brandon defeated Chamberlain 6-0; Freedom defeated Leto 39-0.

Last year: Did not play.

The skinny: The Eagles have struggled through the year but still have a heartbeat in the playoff chase. Freedom can punch its ticket to the playoffs with a win.

The edge: Count on the Patriots to come out and perform well.

Rod Gipson can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

North Tampa teams set sights on playoffs 11/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 3:30am]
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