TAMPA — So what if these games are competing with the opening of college football? There are some over-the-top, great high school matchups that will play out Saturday night in Tampa, and — frankly — some are more required viewing than the college games (well, Michigan vs. Alabama has an argument). And none will be more anticipated than the one pitting defending state 8A champion Plant against Jesuit. All games kick off at 7:30 p.m., unless otherwise noted.
Tampa Catholic at Bayshore, Bradenton
Last week: TC defeated Boca Ciega 24-17 (OT); Bayshore lost to Largo 47-16
Why you should go: To see if the Crusaders can enjoy a victory in tradition-rich Manatee County against a larger school. The Bruins coughed up large chunks of yards to Largo, which bodes well for TC.
Robinson at Jefferson
Last week: Robinson defeated Clearwater 34-6; Jefferson lost to Tampa Bay Tech, 27-7.
Why you should go: Because both offenses are fun to watch, particularly Robinson and its QB Zain Gilmore. Last year, Robinson beat the new-look Dragons — who had gone 15-0 to take the 2010 state title — 38-18, so revenge will be on the mind of the hosts.
Tampa Bay Tech at Newsome
Last week: TBT defeated Jefferson 27-7; Newsome tied Steinbrenner 34-34.
Why you should go: Because you want to see a high school game, but also get out of the stadium by no later than 9:30. Both of these teams keep the ball on the ground, with great success. This is a great early test for two squads expected to make the postseason.
Wharton at King
Last week: Wharton defeated Riverview 35-9; King defeated Middleton 21-7
Why you should go: To see if King can keep pace with Wharton's all-everything (and we do mean everything) senior Vernon Hargreaves. Some say Hargreaves is the best player in the state. So yeah, that's reason enough to check out this one.
Blake at Leto
Last week: Blake lost to Brandon 20-6, Leto defeated Lennard 33-13.
Why you should go: If you're a fan of the Falcons, this may be one of your best chances to catch a victory — something Leto hasn't achieved (apart from forfeits) in more than two seasons. Blake's only points against Brandon came on a blocked punt. Leto RB Andre Simpson had 17 carries for 124 yards and two scores last week.
Hillsborough at Middleton
Last week: Hillsborough beat Plant City 15-7, Middleton lost to King 21-7.
Why you should go: Because it's an unsung rivalry that has produced some classics, most notably Hillsborough's 43-42 double overtime victory in 2004 that kept the Tigers out of the playoffs. Also, you should go to see if Middleton's offense can score; last week's seven points came on Amp Carswell's kickoff return.
Plant at Jesuit, 8 p.m.
Last week: Plant defeated Boyd Anderson 36-12; Jesuit's game was canceled due to weather
Why you should go: This will have the feel of not just a playoff game, but an important playoff game. And Jesuit will be even more eager after its 10-hour round trip to play in Miami ended up being all for naught, thanks to Tropical Storm Isaac. The crowd will be massive. Just go.