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Fighting for playoff berths and respect

There's still a lot to play for.

That's the message that will be spread across plenty of football fields tonight in prepland. Some of the district races have been decided with playoff teams grabbing some of the available spots last week, but some of the best action could be tonight.

While three games could determine three more playoff teams tonight, other squads are looking to get out of the cellar and some teams continue to seek respectability.

At center stage in one playoff race is Chamberlain and Wharton. Both have just one loss in Class 5A, District 8 play. Both are vying for second place in the district and the resulting playoff spot. And both teams are looking to continue their playoff appearances after reaching recent state title games: Wharton last season and Chamberlain in 2001.

Both appeared to be the odd teams out earlier this season. Chamberlain began the year 0-2, and things weren't much better a few weeks later at 2-3. But since then, Billy Turner's squad has been impressive, winning three in a row and five of their last six. In fact, the Chiefs' lone loss during that stretch was to 5A-8 champ Hillsborough. Ditto for Wharton. The Wildcats started out 1-3 but rallied with wins in three of their last four games.

Other matchups to keep an eye on:

Robinson can continue a great season tonight with a playoff berth by defeating Freedom, while Jefferson and Jesuit square off in a game that has meaning for both sides. Jefferson can win the Class 3A, District 10 crown tonight, while a Robinson loss and a Jesuit win gives the Tigers the postseason pass and sends the Knights home.

And while the playoffs won't happen this season for Sickles or Gaither, both have things to prove. Gaither wants to avoid last place, while the much-improved Gryphons have a shot at a 5-5 record.

All kickoffs are at 7:30 p.m.

LETO (1-7, 0-4 in Class 4A, District 10) at ALONSO (6-2, 3-1 in 4A-10)

LAST WEEK: Leto lost to Blake 21-8; Alonso beat Plant 15-13.

LAST YEAR: Alonso beat Leto 33-15.

THE SKINNY: Leto is closing out a disappointing campaign while the surprising Ravens are on their way to securing a playoff spot.

THE EDGE: A win secures Alonso a spot in the postseason. That alone ensures a big Raven performance.

CHAMBERLAIN (5-3, 3-1 in 5A-8) at WHARTON (4-4, 3-1 in 5A-8)

LAST WEEK: Chamberlain beat King 56-12; Wharton beat Gaither 24-7.

LAST YEAR: Chamberlain beat Wharton 10-7.

THE SKINNY: These two have been angling toward this game for most of the season. This is a "winner takes second place in the district and the resulting playoff spot" game.

THE EDGE: Both teams have been up and down throughout the year, but Wharton has come on strong as of late. Wharton's defense should make a difference.

FREEDOM (1-7, 0-3 in 3A-10) at ROBINSON (6-2, 2-1 in 3A-10)

LAST WEEK: Freedom lost to Jesuit 35-0; Robinson beat Newsome 63-7.

LAST YEAR: First-ever meeting.

THE SKINNY: The Patriots are still searching for their first district win in their program's history, but Robinson needs to win to secure second place in the district.

THE EDGE: Robinson gets ready for the playoffs by rolling Freedom.

HILLSBOROUGH (6-2, 4-0 in 5A-8) at GAITHER (3-5, 1-3 in 5A-8)

LAST WEEK: Hillsborough beat Sickles 27-0; Gaither lost to Wharton 24-7.

LAST YEAR: Hillsborough beat Gaither 39-6.

THE SKINNY: Hillsborough captured the district last week so they could overlook Gaither, which is fighting to finish the season strong.

THE EDGE: That still may not be enough for Gaither to beat a better team. Hillsborough wins.

JEFFERSON (7-1, 3-0 in 3A-10) at JESUIT (3-3, 2-1 in 3A-10)

LAST WEEK: Jefferson beat Tampa Bay Tech 45-7; Jesuit beat Freedom 35-0.

LAST YEAR: Didn't play.

THE SKINNY: A huge game for both teams. Jefferson is already in the playoffs; it's just a matter of whether the Dragons begin them at home or on the road. Jesuit, meanwhile, needs a win and a Robinson loss to get into the postseason.

THE EDGE: Guaranteed playoffs or not, Jefferson still has plenty to play for. And the Dragons will prove it _ Jefferson beats the Tigers on their turf.

SICKLES (3-5, 1-3 in 5A-8) at KING (2-6, 0-4 in 5A-8)

LAST WEEK: Sickles lost to Hillsborough 27-0; King lost to Chamberlain 56-12.

LAST YEAR: Didn't play.

THE SKINNY: The Gryphons proved they're one of the more improved teams in the county but still plagued with inconsistency. King has had a dreadful year in and out of the district.

THE EDGE: A win here would keep Sickles out of the 5A-8 cellar and inch it closer to a .500 season.

Expect lots of action like this from last year's game when Wharton and Chamberlain meet tonight. In last year's contest, Chamberlain running back Mike Ross (3) breaks the tackle of Wharton linebacker Larry Edwards (32).

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