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Gaither settles in at the top

Flip over to the Sports section. That's right, Gaither is listed No. 3 in the Tampa Bay Top 10. Once among the state's worst programs, the Cowboys have come a long way with running back Lydell Ross. Wharton visits Gaither tonight, and expect a stampede. Meanwhile, Chamberlain's tough defense is tested by King, Leto faces the vengeance of the Robinson Knights, and Sickles hopes to break its two-season winless streak against Tampa Bay Tech.

WHARTON WILDCATS (0-2) at GAITHER COWBOYS (1-0)

Last year: Gaither rolled 23-7.

Last week: Wharton fell to TB Tech 33-7; Gaither routed Sickles 47-13.

Only one game into the season, Gaither is being bandied about as one of Tampa Bay's top teams. Sure, the Cowboys are only one season removed from their three-year 5-25 nightmare, but having Lydell Ross (five TDs last week) in the backfield makes all the difference. Ross should stay on pace for a 2,000-yard season against Wharton's porous defense.

CHAMBERLAIN CHIEFS (2-0) at KING LIONS (1-1).

Last year: Chamberlain won 20-13.

Last week: Chiefs defeated St. Petersburg 27-7; Lions beat Bloomingdale 28-7.

Chamberlain's always been known for defense, and last week's win was case in point: The defensive unit forced three fumbles and recorded four tackles for losses, two sacks and an interception. King has solid ball carriers in Javonta Lawson and Oscar Folks, but even together they don't provide the challenge 1999 graduate Fred Reid (2,000+ yards) did alone.

LETO FALCONS (0-2) at ROBINSON KNIGHTS (2-0).

Last year: Leto rolled 42-0.

Last week: Falcons fell 35-15 to Plant; Robinson beat Blake 34-14.

When Leto opened last season 2-0, this game was the big turning point: A massive blowout victory en route to a second straight playoff appearance. Don't expect anything like that this time. Robinson's in the driver's seat with the productive offensive combo of RB Kwane Doster and QB Kelley Bourassa. Leto, meanwhile, is allowing more than 45 points per game. Ouch.

SICKLES GRYPHONS (0-2) at TAMPA BAY TECH (2-0)

Last year: Tech edged it out 13-10.

Last week: Sickles fell 47-13 to Gaither; Tech beat Wharton 33-7

Don't buy that last week's huge loss means the Gryphons (0-10 in '99) won't get a win this year either. Gaither's just that good, and Sickles has a lot of talent; coach Shannon O'Brien just has to iron out some wrinkles. Tech has virtually no passing attack to worry about, but a good ground game will pose a challenge for the Gryphons.

_ RICK GERSHMAN

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