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Stakes intensify as three area teams advance

The state playoffs are in the second round and all three north Tampa teams are still alive. Wharton, Chamberlain and Jefferson all posted impressive wins in the opening round to advance to the state semifinals.

In Class 5A play, Wharton and Chamberlain are still alive after wins against Melbourne and Armwood, respectively. Jefferson moves on after beating Lakeland's George Jenkins in the Class 4A playoffs.

The Wildcats, Dragons and Chiefs, all 10-1, posted come-from-behind wins. Wharton's late touchdown ensured its win while Chamberlain posted a field goal in their game's final seconds for the win. Jefferson, meanwhile, trailed at the half but burst out in the third quarter with a 21-0 run that helped it advance to the next round.

Tonight, however, things intensify as two of the three teams hit the road. Wharton is at Durant, Chamberlain hosts Lakeland and Jefferson plays at Lakewood in St. Petersburg. All games kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

CLASS 5A, REGION 2 PLAYOFFS

WHARTON (10-1) at DURANT (10-1)

Last week: Wharton defeated Melbourne 14-13.

Previous meeting: Wharton lost 20-6 to Durant in the 2000 regular season.

The skinny: This game features two teams each coming off their first postseason victory in their school's history. Durant looked strong, beating Hillsborough 35-19 last week.

The edge: Wharton showed grit in coming back to win last week, but Durant is hitting on all cylinders. In a game of two strong offenses, the homefield advantage will aid Durant.

LAKELAND (10-1) at CHAMBERLAIN (10-1)

Last week: Chamberlain defeated Armwood 22-19.

Previous meeting: Chamberlain lost to Lakeland 10-0 in the 2000 state playoffs.

The skinny: Lakeland has been a thorn in the Chiefs' side, topping them in the 2000 and 1999 playoffs.

The edge: The Dreadnaughts looked impressive in beating Kissimmee Osceola 38-14 last week but Chamberlain's Mike Ross and Sidney Bryant are peaking for the Chiefs' offense. The Chamberlain train rolls on.

CLASS 4A, REGION 3 PLAYOFFS

JEFFERSON (10-1) at LAKEWOOD (9-2)

Last week: Jefferson defeated Lakeland George Jenkins 42-24.

Previous meeting: None.

The skinny: Lakewood was sluggish in its playoff-opening 27-17 win against Lake Region. Jefferson quarterback Andre Caldwell had a hand in six touchdowns in the Dragons win against Jenkins.

The edge: With offensive performances like that, can Jefferson be stopped? Not this week - Dragons big.

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