It's week eight of the high school football season and Lakewood finds itself in an unusual position: not atop the Class 4A, District 10 standings. At 2-2 (2-4 overall), the Spartans are mathematically alive going into tonight's 7 o'clock game at Gibbs. They are one-half game behind district leaders Osceola and Dixie Hollins, which are both 2-1.
But Lakewood coach Rich Ninis isn't hopeful.
"I just don't see Dixie Hollins losing another district game," Ninis said. "We're still in it, but I just don't see him (Rebels coach Mark Wiszowaty) allowing them to get down. We still have a chance, but I can't see a team losing two games winning the district."
These aren't the Spartans of old:
They have lost more games this season (four) than they have in the past two seasons.
In six games, they have allowed 137 points. Last season, they gave up only 48.
There is good reason.
"Going into the St. Petersburg game, 12 of 13 drives had ended in fumbles," said offensive coordinator Keith Moran. "Five of those fumbles came inside the opponent's 15-yard line."
But negative statistics and a losing record don't appear to have affected Ninis' attitude.
"At this point, we just want to go 6-4," he said. "
Gibbs (2-4 overall) is still in the district race at 1-1. With the home-field advantage, it should be Gibbs by 1.
Clearwater (6-0) at Sarasota Riverview (4-2): Riverview's dominance over Pinellas County foes continued in last week's 20-0 victory over Largo. The game was moved to Saturday morning because the encephalitis outbreak. Riverview by 9.
Dixie Hollins (5-1) at Boca Ciega (3-3): A loss could mean elimination from the Class 4A, District 10 race. The Rebels, who were idle last week, are 2-1 in the district; Boca Ciega is 1-1. Dixie Hollins by 1.
Seminole (2-4) at St. Petersburg (2-5): St. Petersburg's advantage in team speed will be the major difference. Seminole was off last week. St. Petersburg by 4.
Pinellas Park (3-3) at Northeast (1-5): Both teams have had their fill of disappointments. Patriots' coach Thad Starling is still looking for a solid 48-minute performance. Northeast is rebuilding. Pinellas Park by 6.
Osceola (2-4) at Bloomingdale (3-3): Osceola started the season 2-1, primarily because of its strong defensive play. But the defense has lapsed the past few weeks. For the second consecutive week, the Warriors play a Hillsborough County opponent. Osceola lost last week to Tampa Bay Vo-Tech 44-13. Bloomingdale by 8.
Clearwater Central Catholic (0-6) at Shorecrest (4-2): Shorecrest has a solid defense that will be playing against a lackluster offense. Shorecrest by 7.
St. Petersburg Catholic (2-4) at Northside Christian (3-3): St. Petersburg Catholic is playing better, but Northside has Kenny Locke (948 yards passing) and Steve Norris (563 yards rushing) in the backfield. Northside Christian by 3.
Tarpon Springs (5-1) at Dunedin (3-3): Give the Falcons the slight edge with better team speed. Dunedin by 2.
Largo (5-1) at Countryside (5-2): The Packers lost big to Clearwater last week and Countryside has not shown how good it can be. Largo by 6.
Land O'Lakes (1-5) at East Lake (2-4): Last season, East Lake needed a fourth-quarter rally to win. This time, East Lake should win comfortably. East Lake by 8