Here's a preview of all of tonight's action involving high school football teams in the City Times area. All games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Sickles (5-0) at Plant (4-1-1)
Last week: Sickles defeated Freedom 53-13; Plant defeated Riverview 47-7.
Why you should go: This will provide a great proving ground, and not just for Sickles, as most are saying. The Times' Home Team rankings have Plant No. 7 and Sickles at an all-time best third, but unless the Gryphons take this one, those are just numbers. Sickles got off to a fast start with impressive wins over Robinson, Durant and Newsome, all teams that went well into the playoffs last year. That has Sickles ranked No. 4 in Class 8A. But looking back, none of those three teams currently owns a winning record. That's not to say Sickles isn't legit, and it possesses one of the area's most electrifying players in Ray Ray McCloud, already at the 1,000-yard rushing mark. To boot, Issac Holder is throwing for 167 yards and two touchdowns a game. But this is big for Plant, too, as the Panthers have been inconsistent and want to put down a quality nondistrict opponent.
Chamberlain (4-2, 4-0 in District 6A-8) at Hillsborough (3-2, 3-2)
Last week: Chamberlain defeated Blake 24-6; Hillsborough defeated King 28-27.
Why you should go: Pretty much everyone not wearing green and gold believes this is when the Chiefs get exposed. A 4-0 record and first-place tie with Armwood sounds great, and surely first-year head coach Cam Jones has his team playing well. But now is when the games really start for the Chiefs.
Blake (2-4) at Middleton (0-5)
Last week: Blake lost to Chamberlain 24-6; Middleton lost to Brandon 32-12.
Why you should go: These teams haven't been this concurrently entertaining in a while. Sure, the Tigers are winless, but they are potentially seven days and change away from being a playoff team. They could go 1-9, but as long as that "W" is against Spoto, then Middleton will play in the postseason.
King (4-2, 2-2 in 6A-8) at Robinson (2-4, 2-2)
Last week: King lost to Hillsborough 28-27; Robinson defeated Lennard 22-14.
Why you should go: Of all the games on the schedule this could be the barn burner. How close did King come to a minishocker against Hillsborough? The Lions led 27-20 until a late Terrier TD followed by a narrowly converted two-point run. And still, with a minute left, King was readying for a game-winning field goal, but a bad snap at the 10-yard line stopped the Lions' hopes. Robinson struggled, but got past Lennard. This could be one of those 35-34 contests.
Tampa Bay Tech (4-1) at Plant City (4-1)
Last week: TBT defeated Steinbrenner 54-28; PC lost to East Bay 19-13 (OT).
Why you should go: Because this game is a possible playoff preview. That's far from a stretch. The Titans are not only in the same Class 7A as the Raiders, the teams are in adjacent districts. In fact, if the season ended today, these teams would meet up in the first round. So it will be good for the Titans to see how they stack up. Plant City had a perfect season going, complete with impressive shutouts against Wharton and Bloomingdale, but managed to blow a 13-0 halftime lead last week.
Ocala Trinity Catholic (4-2) at Jesuit (3-3)
Last week: Trinity Catholic defeated Tallahassee Maclay 35-0; Jesuit defeated Spoto 49-16.
Why you should go: Jesuit's scheduling approach worked. After five rugged games to prepare for district play the Tigers rolled to a victory against Spoto. Now its back to rugged terrain. Trinity is ranked No. 4 in Class 3A, two spots behind Tampa Catholic and right behind a Clearwater Central Catholic team that beat the Celtics two weeks ago. Hopefully Trinity has a cleaner night than last week, when the game saw 20 flags in the second quarter alone.
Lennard (0-6, 0-5 in 6A-8) at Jefferson (4-1, 3-1)
Last week: Lennard lost to Robinson 22-14; Jefferson defeated Leto 49-0.
Why you should go: The Dragons are ranked sixth in the current Class 6A poll and nothing about this game lets us think that will drop.