Maybe next year, the Hillsborough County prep football schedule makers can work on the art of back-loading. It's only the second week of the season and already there's talk about a game where the loser will face an uphill battle to make the playoffs.
That would be the Hillsborough-Jefferson matchup. District 6A-8 is as top-heavy as anything in the state and two of the heavies are playing already.
While that's the only major district clash, there's still plenty to entertain, including a matchup of two notable South Tampa schools. And King seems primed for a 2-0 start.
Here's what to look for in this week's Friday night kickoffs. All kickoffs are slated for 7:30 p.m., unless otherwise noted.
Hillsborough (0-0) at Jefferson (1-0)
Last week: Hillsborough was idle; Jefferson defeated Alonso 41-14.
Why you should go: This is going to be a rip-roaring affair, and in the end, will already decide a playoff berth. The loser of this one knows it almost certainly will have to knock off Armwood in order to go to the playoffs. Jefferson's offense is spectacular, but Hillsborough should be able to score at least four touchdowns. This will likely come down to what, if anything, the Terriers can do to slow down the multitalented Deiondre Parter and his crew.
Robinson (0-1) at Plant (0-0-1)
Last week: Robinson lost to Sickles 35-14; Plant tied Sandy Creek (Ga.)
Why you should go: Anyone in South Tampa already knows why. It's hard to think of a better public school rivalry in Hillsborough County as far as geography and just good old dislike of the other goes. Plant is as battle-tested as a team could be in the second week of the regular season, having lost to Tallahassee Godby before battling nationally ranked No. 5 Sandy Creek to a tie. Robinson found the going tough, and the offensive firepower not as strong as it was last year, against Sickles. And it's possible Plant will be too much to handle.
CCC (1-0) at Tampa Catholic (0-1), 7 p.m.
Last week: Clearwater Central Catholic defeated Naples Lely 48-10; Tampa Catholic lost to Madison County 30-15.
Why you should go: To see what Crusaders fans can only hope is a possible state title game preview. In a bit of a fluke, these 3A teams are not in the region. So technically, they could only meet again in the 3A final. To be frank, CCC's odds are a lot better, but TC has to feel pretty good after giving small-school power Madison County such a tough contest.
Freedom (0-1) at Middleton (0-1)
Last week: Freedom lost to King 34-9; Middleton lost to Berkeley Prep 23-12.
Why you should go: Because this group of Tigers appears to have a bit more talent and physicality, and is all-around better than Middleton has been in a few years. This offers a solid chance for a victorious home opener.
Lakewood Ranch at Jesuit (0-1)
Last week: Lakewood Ranch defeated Bradenton Southeast 55-34; Jesuit lost to Hardee 28-10.
Why you should go: Rarely does a Manatee County team play in Hillsborough unless it's a playoff game or the occasional district pairing, such as when Palmetto came to Jesuit a handful of years ago. And unfortunately for the Tigers, Lakewood Ranch is coming off an incredible offensive showing led by Chad Rex, who ran for five touchdowns and threw for more than 100 yards. The Tigers might not need a win, but need to hang close for some confidence especially after a lackluster opening defeat.
King (1-0) at Lennard (0-1)
Last week: King defeated Freedom 34-9; Lennard lost to East Bay 22-3.
Why you should go: Because how often do you plan on hitting Ruskin this fall? Last week, Lennard lost, but had a big crowd on hand, so King fans will want to head south to help out and cheer on a team that showed some big-time, big-play ability last week.
Blake (0-1) at Armwood (1-0)
Last week: Blake lost to Brandon 17-6; Armwood defeated Durant 48-6.
Why you should go: For a chance to see a possible state champion, that's all. Armwood took apart Durant, a team that went undefeated last season until the regional semifinals. Blake did pretty well to slow down Brandon — considering that Brandon actually beat aforementioned Lakewood Ranch in the presesason, down in Bradenton.
Idle: Tampa Bay Tech (0-1)