(All games begin at 7:30 tonight except as noted)
Shorecrest (5-3) at Indian Rocks Chr. (3-5), 3:30
The three-team 2A-12 race will finally heat up today. Indian Rocks, 0-1 in the district, must win this afternoon to have a shot at the playoffs. Matt Opsahl, once the county rushing leader, has dropped to third, but needs just 35 yards to hit 1,000 for the season. Next week's Shorecrest-Northside Christian finale will decide this district's seedings. Times' pick: Shorecrest by 9.
Springstead (6-1) at Tarpon Springs (5-3)
The winner clinches a playoff spot, and the Eagles are no longer a pushover for the Spongers. Tarpon crushed Springstead in consecutive playoff years from 1989-1991, but four of the past five games have been decided by a touchdown or less. The teams have split the past four meetings with Springstead earning its second playoff birth with a win last year and keeping the Spongers out of the post-season for the second time in eight years. Revenge? Times' pick: Tarpon Springs by 3.
Clearwater Central Catholic (7-1) at Berkeley Prep (7-2)
The three-team Class 3A, District 9 could be decided tonight with St. Petersburg Catholic and of course CCC rooting for a Marauder win to put both teams into the playoffs. The Marauders have won the last four in a row. A win gives the Marauders their first district title since 1978. A Bucs win forces a three-way tie. Times' pick: CCC by 3.
Seminole (4-4) at Clearwater (3-5)
On the surface this game may seem average with both teams ranked in the bottom half of the county in offense and defense, but this is a huge game. The winner makes the playoffs in 5A-9. Clearwater looks for its third straight post-season trip after a late run got the Tornadoes in last year. Seminole can win the district with a victory and make the playoffs for the first time since 1976. Times' pick: Clearwater by 1.
Palm Harbor University (3-5) at Sickles (1-6)
A .500 season is attainable for the first-year Hurricanes, who have proven they can play. Sickles has the second-worst scoring offense in Hillsborough and Pinellas combined and its porous defense ranks third-worst out of the 57 football schools in the surrounding five counties. Those are numbers that should pep Palm Harbor up after coming off its worst loss of the year against Jesuit last week. A win also sets up a third-place district showdown in the season finale against Osceola next week. Not too shabby. Times' pick: Palm Harbor U. by 10.
King (2-6) at East Lake (7-1)
Do we dare call this a rivalry? The Eagles and Lions have met just twice, with East Lake winning the past two years. It is, nonetheless, East Lake's biggest game of the season because it needs to win to remain in the post-season hunt. A win coupled with a Hillsborough or Chamberlain loss means the Eagles get the pleasure of playing one of the Sarasota/Bradenton powers in the post-season. East Lake should stay alive for a third playoff berth with its third win over King. Times' pick: East Lake by 14.
Countryside (2-6) at Dunedin (5-3)
The Falcons are playing for pride and the school's best record of the decade. The Cougars are just playing. Dunedin wants to win its final two games for second-year coach Todd Donohoe, but its bench is depleted. Countryside, coming off its first playoff season in school history, has dropped from Class 6A and carries a bigger bench. That might help the Cougars, who were shut out for the fourth time last week. Edge to Dunedin at home. Times' pick: Dunedin by 2.
Largo (2-6) at Pinellas Park (6-2)
The Patriots' quick start has turned into a turbulent slide, but they still have a shot at the district title, depending on the outcome of tonight's Seminole-Clearwater showdown. A Pinellas Park win would guarantee a playoff bid, while a loss could put it on the bubble. Largo boasts durable running back Desmon Newton, who hopes to end his 5A-9 career with a breakout performance. Times' pick: Pinellas Park by 4.
Northeast (8-0) at Lakewood (3-5)
Vikings coach Jerry Austin already has secured the 5A-10 title and become the winningest football coach in Pinellas County history. What's next? Perhaps a perfect regular season. Northeast has steamrolled almost all of its opponents this season by using a lethal three-man rushing attack, spiced by heady quarterback Doug Waechter. Lakewood is well out of the playoff hunt, but is led by speedster Rashod Moulton, who has nine touchdowns this year. Times' pick: Northeast by 16.
Dixie Hollins (6-2) at Boca Ciega (3-5)
At the beginning of the season, both coaches hoped this game would have playoff implications. Nope. But it should still be a good one. Dixie signal-caller Robert Dorsey has nine touchdowns this year, while the Dixie defense has allowed just 15 points per game. The Pirates have struggled, but boast talented athletes in quarterback Nick Spearman and DeAndrew Rubin. Times' pick: Dixie Hollins by 1.
St. Petersburg (6-2) at Gibbs (1-7)
The Green Devils have secured a playoff berth; Gibbs has secured last place in the district, again. This will likely be a chance for St. Petersburg to tune up, while Gibbs is hoping for its first district win in a very long time. Times' pick: St. Petersburg by 18.
Hudson (1-7) at St. Petersburg Catholic (4-4)
St. Petersburg Catholic has been on a downward dip the past few weeks, but needs this game for mental fortitude as it awaits the results of the Berkeley Prep-Clearwater Central Catholic showdown, which will decide who advances in the three-team 3A-9. Times' pick: St. Petersburg Catholic by 10.
LAST WEEK: 8-3 OVERALL: 78-33
_ ROBBI PICKERAL, ERIC VICIAN