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Chiefs, Cowboys face key games

High school coaches will tell you that all games are important, but Chamberlain and Gaither have especially crucial ones tonight. Both schools are still in the hunt for the Class 5A, District 8 title and entertain district opponents on the road at 8 p.m. Chamberlain (5-2, 3-1 in 5A-8) travels to Jefferson (1-5, 0-3), while Gaither (2-4, 2-1) visits King (5-2, 1-2).

Both Chamberlain and Gaither need victories to stay within a game of district leader Sarasota, which is off this week.

A loss for either squad just about knocks them out of the district picture.

Gaither has a bigger task at hand than Chamberlain. Although King is fifth in the district with two losses, it's one of Hillsborough County's better teams.

The Lions are coming off a critical 21-14 loss to Sarasota and might take out its anger on the Cowboys.

The game within the game will be the battle at quarterback. Gaither's Michael Jordan is the county leader with 1,167 yards passing, while King's Andre Williams is sixth with 795 yards.

Quarterback is key for Jefferson in its effort against Chamberlain. Dragons signal-caller Rudy Dawson could single-handedly upset the Chiefs.

"This is a pivotal game for us," said Gaither defensive line coach Gary Hallauer.

"We can't afford to lose it. If we do, we're out.

"Really, every one of these games counts from now on."

Chamberlain, though, won't be taking Jefferson lightly despite their disappointing record.

The Chiefs have already lost to Sarasota, so they can ill afford another district defeat.

Look for Chiefs quarterback Keith Hayes to have another good day against a Jefferson defense which was burned for 201 passing yards a week ago.

In fact, in Chamberlain's 38-0 rout of Leto last week, Hayes threw for 225 yards on 10 of 15 passing.

Brandon at Plant City: Like Chamberlain and Gaither, Plant City (4-2, 2-1 in 5A-7) can't go into this one half-stepping just because Brandon is 2-5 overall, 0-3 in 5A-7. A letdown here and the Raiders' hopes of winning the district all but vanish.

The question is, can Brandon keep Plant City from lighting up the scoreboard?

The Eagles' porous defense has allowed almost 200 points this season.

And Raiders quarterback Russell Evans could add a heap of points to that total before tonight is over.

A 14-13 win over Armwood last week should give the Eagles some confidence, but they must improve on the 29 yards rushing they gained on 27 carries in the game.

Leto at Hillsborough: No 5A-7 implications here as both teams are virtually out of the district picture.

Still, this one should be worthwhile as Leto (3-4, 2-2) struggles to finish at least near the top of the standings.

Leto fans hope the team has forgotten last Thursday's nightmare, a 38-0 blowout to Chamberlain.

The Falcons continue to have problems offensively. They're averaging about a touchdown a game, although tailback Juan Hartsfield is always a threat with a 6-yard-per-carry average.

Hillsborough, of course, isn't laughing. The Terriers (1-5, 0-3) are on a three-game skid.

They were off last week, which might have given them enough time to erase a 41-13 bashing by Sarasota the Friday before.

If both teams play like they did in their last games, this one could end in a scoreless tie.

Armwood at East Bay: A clash between independents that may turn out to be extremely lopsided.

With last week off, East Bay (5-1) should be at full strength.

East Bay blasted its last opponent, Jefferson, 22-0. Meanwhile, Armwood (2-5) narrowly lost last week to Brandon, 14-13.

East Bay quarterback Gary Moore, though, may put Armwood back on skid row. Thus far, the senior signal-caller has thrown for 1,024 yards, second best in Hillsborough County.

Moore, though, should beware. Armwood intercepted Brandon quarterback Jason Ryan three times last week.

Osceola at Bloomingdale: Bloomingdale (3-3) looks to get back on track following a 14-0 shutout to Bradenton Southeast a week ago.

The Bulls are going to need more offensive firepower. Osceola (2-4) is currently tied for the lead in its district (Class 4A, District 10), and is coming off a 44-13 beating from Tampa Bay Vo-Tech.

Against Southeast, the Bulls tallied a grand total of three first downs.

While Bloomingdale's running game remains strong, the Bulls need quarterback Tray King to come through. Last week, he was 1-for-9 for 44 yards.

Bradenton Bayshore at Plant: The Panthers (4-2, 1-0 in 4A-11) were motoring along on a three-game win streak until they tripped over East Bay 24-7 last week.

Fortunately for Plant, it wasn't a district game, thus their hopes remain alive going into this game, the first of two important district meetings.

Last week, mistakes hurt the Panthers, who were tagged with three interceptions. Plant, though, has gotten the job done all season with defense.

The Panthers are allowing 10 points a game, which is about what Bayshore (1-4, 0-1 in 4A-11) has scored per game.

Bradenton Southeast at Robinson: Robinson (1-6, 0-2 in 4A-11) goes on top of the world after notching its first win _ and an impressive one _ last week, 46-24 over Hudson.

But, don't look now, the Knights have the district-leading Seminoles (6-1, 1-0) to contend with.

It would take the upset of the year for the Knights to make it two wins in a row.

Ocala-Saint John Lutheran at Berkeley Prep: The Bucs (1-6) are headed in the wrong way after two straight losses, including a 27-0 shutout to Lake Highland Prep a week ago.

Lutheran won't help matters. This Ocala team is rolling along at 6-0.

Jesuit at Crystal River: Jesuit (6-1, 5-1 in 3A-4) is playing with loads of confidence with three straight wins to its credit.

Defensively, the Tigers have been especially stingy, allowing just 19 points in their last three games. Crystal River (3-4, 3-3 in 3A-4) is out to spoil the Tigers' district title hopes.

That might happen if the Tigers are looking ahead to an important clash with district contender South Sumter.

Tampa Catholic at Lecanto: Like Jesuit, Tampa Catholic (6-1, 5-1 in 3A-4) is driving toward the district title.

The Crusaders are coming off an emotional 21-16 win over Zephyrhills; meanwhile, Lecanto (1-5, 1-5 in 3A-4) is trying to salvage a disappointing season.

Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic at Temple Heights: Temple Heights (3-3, 1-0 in A-6) is trying to get up from a last-minute loss to Trinity Christian last week.

The Eagles are not likely to get any sympathy from Santa Fe (5-2, 3-0 in A-6), the district leaders. A win by Santa Fe seals the title.

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