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Gridiron battles continue for North Tampa high schools

CARROLLWOOD

Although some teams have already dipped their toes into district waters, the full plunge into league play kicks off this week.

And at the center of these district showdowns for North Tampa squads are Jefferson and Sickles.

The Dragons are 1-0 in Class 3A, District 8 (3-1 overall) and travel across the bay to take on Lakewood (4-1), also 1-0 in district play. With fellow 3A-8 team Spoto unbeaten and also 1-0 in the district, these three squads are basically playing for two playoff spots. The Jefferson-Lakewood winner has the edge in that race.

Sickles, meanwhile, bounced back nicely from its tough loss to 4A-10 foe Largo two weeks ago. The Gryphons survived a wild road shoot-out with Brandon last week, earning a 36-24 victory. That sets up tonight's meeting at home with Boca Ciega, also 1-0 in the district.

With Largo maintaining first place right now, Sickles and Boca Ciega both need to win this game to keep pace for the crown or at least secure second place and its accompanying post-season berth.

In other district contests, Freedom is at Tampa Bay Tech, Gaither plays at Plant, Alonso hosts Chamberlain and Wharton is at Brandon. Also, Steinbrenner gets another taste of varsity play, hosting St. Petersburg Catholic.

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

FREEDOM (2-1) at TAMPA BAY TECH (3-1)

Last week: Freedom was off; Tampa Bay tech defeated Alonso 45-21.

Last year: Tampa Bay Tech beat Freedom 22-21.

The skinny: The Patriots, coming off a bye week, look to make a splash in its Class 5A, District 7 opener. Tech comes off a solid showing against Alonso in which five different players scored touchdowns.

The edge: This likely is the de facto 5A-7 district championship game. Freedom may put up a fight but so did Alonso last week — Tech wins.

JEFFERSON (3-1, 1-0 in Class 3A, District 8) at LAKEWOOD (4-1, 1-0)

Last week: Jefferson beat Wharton 45-7; Lakewood defeated Countryside 31-20.

Last year: Did not play.

The skinny: An interesting meeting of two very similar teams. Fast offenses with plenty of play makers and solid defenses that can stop opponents. Watch this matchup: Jefferson QB Quentin Williams against Lakewood linebacker Ba'ree Boyd.

The edge: A crucial game to the 3A-8 race, Jefferson makes the trip across the bay and will come back with a big win.

BOCA CIEGA (2-2, 1-0 in 4A-10) at SICKLES (4-1, 0-1 in 4A-10)

Last week: Boca Ciega beat Pinellas Park 22-14; Sickles defeated Brandon 36-24.

Last year: Did not play.

The skinny: Boca Ciega played well in its win against Pinellas Park. Sickles, meanwhile, showed grit in its comeback win at Brandon. And Sickles running back Carey White continues to show his stuff — he ran for 198 yards and two touchdowns last week.

The edge: Sickles wins this one and pulls even in the district standings.

GAITHER (1-3) at PLANT (3-1)

Last week: Gaither lost to Hillsborough 68-0; Plant beat Armwood 17-7.

Last year: Plant defeated Gaither 49-7.

The skinny: Gaither's seemingly lost season may have hit bottom last week with its shutout beating at the hands of Hillsborough. Plant's convincing win against Armwood re-establishes the Panthers as the top team in the area.

The edge: This one is easy. Plant won't score 68 points, but plenty enough for an easy win.

CHAMBERLAIN (0-5) at ALONSO (2-3)

Last week: Chamberlain lost to Plant City 35-6; Alonso lost to Tampa Bay Tech 45-21.

Last year: Chamberlain defeated Alonso 35-21.

The skinny: The winning Billy Turner-led Chamberlain Chiefs are long gone. In five games this season, the post-Turner Chiefs have scored a total of 22 points. Alonso is just looking for a win after losses to Hillsborough and Tampa Bay Tech.

The edge: Alonso could score one touchdown and win this game. However, they will score several.

LETO (1-3, 0-1 4A-10) at LARGO (4-1, 1-0 in 4A-10)

Last week: Leto lost to King 21-20; Largo lost to Tarpon Springs 28-20.

Last year: Did not play.

The skinny: The Falcons suffered a tough loss as they saw their come- back bid thwarted last week against King. The dominant Packers, meanwhile, suffered their first loss of the season last week at the hands of Tarpon Springs.

The edge: Largo gets well — and another 4A-10 district win — quickly.

WHARTON (1-4) at BRANDON (1-4)

Last week: Wharton lost to Jefferson 45-7; Brandon lost to Sickles 36-24.

Last year: Did not play.

The skinny: Two teams expected to be better that are suffering disappointing seasons.

The edge: At least Brandon has shown the ability to score some points. That should be enough to secure a win.

Rod Gipson can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

Gridiron battles continue for North Tampa high schools 10/08/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 8, 2009 5:30am]
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