Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Playoff possibilities pepper the Friday night slate

BRANDON

If there was ever a time to sign up for Twitter to keep up with all the action across the county, tonight is it.

Not every east county team has something on the line, but for a number of schools, tonight's games will shape their playoff future. The top two teams from each district advance to the regional quarterfinals beginning Nov. 15.

Armwood is locked in as the Class 6A, District 8 champ and likely will begin reviewing game film for an opening matchup against tonight's Venice-Osceola winner.

Bloomingdale is in good position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008. The easiest path for the Bulls is with a win against Wharton, which would secure the No. 2 seed in Class 8A, District 6 behind district champ Plant. If Wharton and Alonso win, there will be a three-way tiebreaker with Bloomingdale for the runner-up spot. But if Wharton wins and Alonso loses, the Bulls are out.

In Class 7A, District 8, East Bay and Plant City need to win to force a three-way tiebreaker with Strawberry Crest. If East Bay or Plant City wins and the other loses, Strawberry Crest and the winner would advance.

To extend that scenario, an East Bay win coupled with a Plant City loss makes Strawberry Crest the district champion and East Bay the runner-up. If Plant City wins and East Bay loses, the Raiders take the title and Strawberry Crest will be the runner-up. The stakes are high because the district champion begins the playoffs at home while the runner-up has to go on the road.

Spoto, with its win against Middleton last week, will likely advance in the three-team Class 5A, District 9. Middleton can spoil everything with a win tonight against Jesuit, forcing a three-way tiebreaker. But since that is highly unlikely, Jesuit and the Spartans should be the two playoff teams.

Wharton (6-3) at Bloomingdale (5-3)

Last week: Wharton defeated Plant 46-13; Bloomingdale beat Newsome 24-10.

Why you should go: The formula for Bloomingdale is simple: win tonight's game and the Bulls secure the second spot in 8A-6, putting them in the postseason for the first time since 2008. The Bulls' Chris Wonsley and Alan Yearby both took INTs to the house last week against Newsome.

Plant City (6-2) at Brandon (3-5)

Last week: Plant City beat Strawberry Crest 41-14; Brandon lost to East Bay 22-21.

Why you should go: Plant City denied Strawberry Crest a district title with a blowout win last Friday. Landon Galloway was superb, going 12-of-15 for 163 yards and four passing TDs to go along with a rushing score. The Raiders were physically dominant on both sides of the ball and looked every bit a playoff team — if they can get there.

Durant (3-6) at East Bay (6-3)

Last week: Durant defeated Hillsborough 32-30; East Bay beat Brandon 22-21.

Why you should go: East Bay is in the same boat as Plant City, needing a win to have a shot at the playoffs. The Indians almost saw their season slip away last week, but rallied late on a Chris Greene touchdown for the narrow win. East Bay also got a pair of punt return touchdowns from Christian Ashford.

Lennard (1-8) at Spoto (1-7)

Last week: Lennard beat Leto 68-0; Spoto defeated Middleton 24-0.

Why you should go: That is not a misprint: Lennard won a game for the first time in nearly two years last week. Congrats to the Longhorns for the victory and it's not out of the question they could end the season with back-to-back victories. Spoto also got its first win of the season last week, but boy was it a big one. The Spartans blanked Middleton and in the process, earned a berth in the postseason, pending Jesuit's likely win tonight versus the Tigers. Spartans' QB Kevin Hobley tossed three second-quarter TD passes in the win against Middleton.

Armwood (8-0) at Chamberlain (4-5)

Last week: Armwood beat King 28-0; Chamberlain lost to Jefferson 28-24.

Why you should go: The Hawks have had some dominant defenses throughout the years and this season's version ranks right up there. Armwood has pitched three shutouts and were a Hillsborough safety away from a fourth. The Hawks also haven't let an opponent reach double digits all season.

Riverview (2-6) at Newsome (4-5)

Last week: Alonso beat Riverview 42-13; Newsome lost to Bloomingdale 24-10.

Why you should go: The Wolves will need a win tonight to sustain their streak of non-losing seasons. Newsome went 5-5 in 2007 and has never finished below .500 under coach Ken Hiscock. Riverview certainly would welcome a victory against its neighboring rival.

Plant (7-1, 4-0) at Alonso (5-3, 2-2)

Last week: Plant defeated Wharton 46-13; Alonso defeated Riverview 35-7.

Why you should go: Bloomingdale beat Alonso earlier this year, but tonight it roots for the Ravens because if it falters against Wharton, an Alonso victory extends its postseason chances by creating a three-way tie for the district runner-up spot. Of course, Plant is a perennial power and it's unlikely to suffer a letdown after clinching the district crown last week. Teams coached by Robert Weiner always get better as the season progresses.

Middleton (2-6, 0-1 in 5A-9) at Jesuit (5-3, 1-1)

Last week: Middleton lost to Spoto 24-0; Jesuit was idle.

Why you should go: Frankly, it seems like Jesuit has had this district title sewn up since the teams were announced, but Middleton can still win it. A stretch, sure, but Middleton can score some points and so the Tigers (of Jesuit) still have to show up. Problem for Middleton is it didn't score any points last week in a shocking loss to previously winless Spoto. Maybe that Spoto team should have gotten a little more credit considering its schedule was strong. Should Middleton pull the upset, the district's three teams would convene at Jesuit on Monday to decide the two playoff spots.

Times correspondents Rod Gipson and Darek Sharp contributed to this report. Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]

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