Friday, May 25, 2018
Sports

Wharton has plenty of motivation for clash with Alonso

NEW TAMPA

Just call it Decision Friday.

Eight football games involving North of Tampa area teams are district meetings and seven of them involve squads with legitimate playoff shots.

One of the biggest games will be at Wharton, where the Wildcats, still reeling from the serious injury to teammate Sean McNamee, are trying to secure their fifth playoff spot in the last seven years and third straight. They'll have to get past a talented but underachieving Alonso squad, which has been all but eliminated from playoff contention.

Other big games have Gaither playing at Sickles in the 7A-7 race, Chamberlain hosting Robinson as the Chiefs try to keep pace in 6A-8, and two key Class 2A, District 5 meetings as Carrollwood Day hosts Bradenton Christian and Cambridge tries to knock off first-place Indian Rocks Christian.

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

Alonso (3-3, 0-2) at Wharton (6-1, 2-0)

Last week: Alonso was off; Wharton defeated Steinbrenner 45-28.

Why you should go: Alonso is playing for what's left of its Class 8A, District 6 playoff hopes. Wharton is playing for injured LB Sean McNamee, who remains hospitalized after a head injury in practice last week. A Wildcats win all but guarantees at least a postseason spot.

Robinson (2-5, 2-4) at Chamberlain (4-3, 4-1)

Last week: Robinson lost to King 24-0; Chamberlain lost to Hillsborough 22-21.

Why you should go: Because Chamberlain is still in the Class 6A, District 8 mix. Sure, the Chiefs have cooled off since their hot start, and still have the one-two punch of Armwood and Jefferson waiting, but coach Cam Jones' plucky group may still be tied for second in league play after tonight. Robinson, meanwhile, has been shut out twice in its previous four games.

Freedom (1-5, 0-2) at Tampa Bay Tech (5-1, 2-0)

Last week: Freedom was off; Tampa Bay Tech defeated Plant City 38-21.

Why you should go: While Freedom tries to reverse its four-game losing streak, Tampa Bay Tech remains one of three (along with Gaither and Sickles) teams fighting for two postseason spots. The Titans, impressive in their win last week at Plant City, likely won't be looking ahead to showdowns on the road at Gaither and Sickles.

Gaither (3-3, 2-0) at Sickles (5-1, 2-0)

Last week: Gaither was off; Sickles lost to Plant 24-20.

Why you should go: Gaither has had two weeks to prepare for their district and neighborhood rival. Sickles is coming off a disheartening loss at Plant. A loss tonight seriously damages the Class 7A, District 7 postseason hopes for either team as the Gryphons and Cowboys are scrapping for two spots along with Tech.

Middleton (1-5) at Leto (0-6)

Last week: Middleton defeated Blake 26-21; Leto lost to Armwood 74-0.

Why you should go: Middleton is plenty motivated, despite starting the season 0-5. A three-team 5A-9 district helps as the Tigers need only one win in district play (which starts next week) to reach the playoffs. Leto has been shut out in three straight contests and a total of four this season.

Tampa Catholic (5-1, 2-0) at Berkeley Prep (2-3, 0-2)

Last week: Tampa Catholic was off; Berkeley Prep was off.

Why you should go: Tampa Catholic is unbeaten and in first place in Class 3A, District 4 play. Berkeley Prep's playoff hopes are slim, so expect the Bucs to come out swinging against the rival Crusaders.

Bradenton Christian (3-4, 1-3) at Carrollwood Day School (4-3, 2-1), 4 p.m.

Last week: Bradenton Christian lost to Northside Christian 33-10; CDS defeated Keswick Christian 54-13.

Why you should go: Can CDS keep its faint playoff hopes alive? It will have to run the table during its last three games and hope for the 2A-5 leaders to falter.

Indian Rocks Christian (4-3, 4-0) at Cambridge Christian (4-2, 2-1)

Last week: IRC defeated Canterbury 55-0; Cambridge was off.

Why you should go: To see an exciting Cambridge team make a run at the playoffs. So what do the Lancers have to do? Beat the best in 2A-5 leader IRC tonight, rival CDS next week and Canterbury (which is fighting for a playoff spot) in its finale.

Steinbrenner (1-5, 0-2) at Wiregrass Ranch (1-5, 0-2)

Last week: Steinbrenner lost to Wharton 45-28; Wiregrass Ranch defeated Ridgewood 37-14.

Why you should go: To see which 7A-7 team can avoid the cellar. Both teams, along with Freedom, are looking for their first league victory and a chance to avoid the previously mentioned cellar.

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