That's not a trace of resurgent humidity you're feeling in the mid-October air, it's tension. As local prep football goes, tonight is big. Really big. It's the second full week of district competition, and it's not hyperbole to suggest some North Suncoast teams (Land O'Lakes, Hernando) could see their postseason hopes come to fruition or flat-line this very evening. Others (Zephyrhills, Central, Mitchell, Wesley Chapel) wouldn't be mathematically eliminated with a defeat, but the uphill battle they'd face to get back in playoff contention would be of Himalayan proportions. To guide you through this pivotal night, we've provided a synopsis of what we consider tonight's biggest games, with a barometer of their significance.
Very important district game, but not a season-breaker for either team
Crucial. Someone's playoff or district title hopes take a serious hit
If this game were a shirt, it would look baggy on Warren Sapp; essentially do or die for one or both teams
Land O'Lakes at Tarpon Springs
Land O'Lakes, which fell to Springstead two weeks ago, essentially has to win to preserve hope of a 12th consecutive postseason berth. If the Gators were to lose tonight and finish tied with Springstead and Tarpon Springs with 4-2 district records, the Eagles and Spongers would earn the district's two playoff berths because both defeated the Gators. At this stage, we don't see Tarpon and Springstead each finishing with two district losses.
Zephyrhills at Pasco
This one would matter if there were no district implications. It's Pasco County's oldest rivalry, and Zephyrhills has won the past three meetings. A Pasco win puts the Pirates in excellent position for a playoff berth; Gulf is the only formidable district foe remaining on their schedule. While a loss doesn't dash the Bulldogs' playoff hopes, it makes the Oct. 31 home game against unbeaten Gulf a must-win. District 3A-6
Crystal River at Hernando
For all practical intents, this game is for the district's No. 2 playoff spot. With Citrus and Lecanto still bringing up the rear of this five-team district, Crystal River, Hernando and Nature Coast basically are vying for two playoff spots. We see Nature Coast winning out in the district, and the winner of this game going on to top Citrus and Lecanto to sneak into the postseason.
Mitchell at Gaither
In a four-team district, every game matters. Quite simply, Mitchell and Wesley Chapel have to defeat at least one of their Hillsborough County district counterparts (Gaither, Wharton) to get into the postseason. Gaither, at 2-3, hasn't bedazzled anyone yet, and the Mustangs are coming off their most prolific offensive showing of the year. This one could be far more interesting than you think.
Wesley Chapel at Wharton
Why it matters? See Mitchell-Gaither.
Central at Springstead
Three weeks ago, when Central was 0-2, this matchup didn't appear so dazzling. Now it's one of the few whose stock has actually risen. A Springstead victory gives the Eagles a 2-0 district record and keeps them in excellent playoff position. A Bears triumph, however, propels this district race into mass disarray (and sets off a widespread, joyous roar throughout Land O'Lakes).