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TONIGHT'S SLATE

KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m.

MITCHELL (2-6) AT RIVER RIDGE (3-5)

WHERE: Jim Valentine Stadium.

SERIES: Tied at 1.

OUTLOOK: There's one playoff spot left to decide in Pasco County, the Class 4A, District 7 runner-up, and fighting for it are two similar teams tied together by geography, history and philosophy. Mitchell coach Scott Schmitz and River Ridge coach Mike DeGennaro, who once coached together, favor bruising lines, bruising backs and bruising defenses. The Mustangs ground up teams with Mark Pijanowski, Spencer Brown and J.J. Campbell (1,290 combined yards). The Royal Knights increasingly rely on Michael Dix (589) for tough yards and try to spring speedster Jahmaal Osbourne (885 combined yards) loose for big gains. Both teams live and die on the line of scrimmage, and not coincidentally both get several lineman back from injuries tonight. Phil Combes, Zach Huffmon and Andrew Hutchison return for the Knights, while the Mustangs get Bryan Littlejohn and Casey Smith back.

PASCO (6-2) AT GULF (4-4)

WHERE: W.D. "Des" Little Stadium.

SERIES: Pasco is 22-1 since 1973 in a battle of the counties' oldest schools. Gulf last won 15-6 in 1980.

OUTLOOK: Gulf has locked up its best record in a decade, but the Bucs will have their hands full in this district finale for both teams. Pasco has locked up a playoff spot, and can't do anything to change its postseason draw, so the Pirates can ease up on two-way starters and rest injured players in preparation for the postseason. For you scoreboard-watchers, the game to watch for Pasco fans is Jesuit-Jefferson. If Jefferson _ No. 2 in the Times Tampa Bay Top 10 _ should win, then that's where Pasco is headed in two weeks for the playoff opener. If Jesuit wins, there's likely a three-way tie atop District 10, setting up a district shootout Monday between Jesuit, Jefferson and Robinson. Even with a loss here, Gulf can finish at .500 with a victory next week against Lecanto (1-7).

LAND O' LAKES (4-4) AT RIDGEWOOD (0-8)

WHERE: Ridgewood Stadium.

SERIES: Land O'Lakes leads 12-6, winning seven straight.

OUTLOOK: A year ago, the Gators were undefeated and the Rams were 5-3, but both aren't scoring like they used to. Land O'Lakes posted at least 26 points in every regular-season game last year, a mark they've hit just three times in 2003, and Ridgewood's season high is 17 points. The Gators' Drew Weatherford is just 16 yards behind Pasco's Cory Filley for the county passing lead. Tight end Caz Piurowski hasn't caught a touchdown pass in his last four games.

WESLEY CHAPEL (8-0) AT CITRUS (3-5)

WHERE: Hurricane Stadium.

SERIES: First meeting.

OUTLOOK: Citrus' three wins are against teams with a combined three victories this season. The Hurricanes got their running game going last week, with R.J. Cobb rushing for 256 yards in a 48-21 win over Lecanto. A week earlier, South Sumter rushed for 357 yards against Citrus, which bodes well for Wesley Chapel's Nigel Bryant (728 yards) and Aaron Dickler (417 yards). Bryant trails Ridgewood's Mike Galizia for the county rushing title with two weeks to play. Unless Jesuit upsets Jefferson in a big Tampa tilt tonight, Wesley Chapel will play host to Robinson in the first round of the playoffs. Wesley Chapel is sixth in the Tampa Bay Top 10, while Robinson is eighth.

ZEPHYRHILLS (6-2) AT HUDSON (3-5)

WHERE: Cobra Stadium.

SERIES: Zephyrhills leads 16-7-1 and has won four straight. In the first meeting in 1974, the teams tied 0-0.

OUTLOOK: This is a tough time for Zephyrhills, which likely will finish 8-2 and not make the playoffs, a victim of the FHSAA's decision to get rid of at-large playoff berths. Adding to the frustration, the Bulldogs likely will finish with three wins against teams that will be in the playoffs. Zephyrhills sends the county's No. 2 scoring defense against a Cobras squad that has 36 points in its five losses. Keep an eye on Hudson's Nathan Toole, whose average of 6.6 yards is the highest among the county's top 15 rushers.

_ Compiled by Greg Auman and Jamal Thalji.

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