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COWBOYS PUT PLAYOFF HOPES AT RISK IN PASCO

Winning tonight does not guarantee Gaither High's football team a playoff spot.

But losing tonight certainly puts a serious dent in any postseason hopes. That's why when the Cowboys travel to Pasco County to face Wiregrass Ranch, they'll have plenty of incentive.

At 0-1 in Class 7A, District 7, Gaither is already looking up at Freedom, Sickles and Wiregrass in the league standings. Gaither (3-2) dropped its district opener 15-10 to Freedom two weeks ago.

The Cowboys were dominant in last week's win against Durant, being physical up front in an effort that yielded more than 200 yards rushing.

They'll need to duplicate that effort tonight and the rest of the month.

After tonight's trip to Wesley Chapel, the Gaither slate includes a stretch of three straight district contests: at home against neighborhood rival (and defending district champ) Sickles, followed by road games at Tampa Bay Tech and Steinbrenner.

The three remaining games with North of Tampa teams all involve private schools, including unbeaten Cambridge Christian, which is playing in St. Petersburg at Northside Christian.

All kickoffs are scheduled for 7 p.m. unless noted. (Note: Most public schools played Thursday night.)

* * *

Gaither (3-2, 0-1) at Wiregrass Ranch (2-2, 1-0), 7:30

Last week: Gaither d. Durant 23-7; Wiregrass Ranch had a bye.

Why you should go: This game should be more even as Wiregrass Ranch has improved in recent seasons. The Bulls are coming off a league win Sept.19 and have had two weeks to prep for the Cowboys, who will continue their three-headed running attack with Curtis Wilder, Malik Huff and Copey Hargrove.

* * *

Canterbury (4-1, 0-1) at Carrollwood Day School (1-2, 0-1)

Where: Skyway Park

Last week: Canterbury d. Zion Lutheran 30-28; CDS vs. Admiral Farragut was canceled due to inclement weather.

Why you should go: Because a win keeps Carrollwood Day's playoff hopes alive. But the Patriots need to get their offense in gear. CDS has been outscored by an average of 39-15 in games this season.

* * *

Cambridge Christian (5-0, 1-0) at Northside Christian (2-2, 0-1)

Last week: Cambridge d. Bishop McLaughlin 59-7; Northside had a bye.

Why you should go: To watch the Lancers' bid to keep their unbeaten streak alive as they near the looming Oct. 17 showdown with fellow unbeaten district leader Indian Rocks Christian. Plus, Cambridge's pinball-like offense is averaging 55 points a game thanks to stars Garrett Young (QB), Andrew Cunningham (RB) and Caleb Young (WR).

* * *

Citrus Park Christian (1-4) at (Vero Beach) St. Edward's (1-2)

Last week: St. Stephen's d. Citrus Park 18-7; St. Edward's d. Evangelical Christian 20-0.

Why you should go: Because the Eagles are improving ... and maybe by driving out of the bay area you can actually watch a game without the need for an umbrella. Citrus Park Christian' offense was efficient in its loss to St. Stephen's - the Eagles trailed only 9-7 in the second half before defensive miscues led to the loss.

* * *

Frostproof (3-1, 0-0) at Tampa Catholic (1-4, 0-1)

Last week: Hardee County d. Frostproof 21-14; TC d. Cardinal Mooney 20-7

Why you should go: It's a chance for Tampa Catholic, buoyed by its first win of the season, to jump into the district race. The Bulldogs are very solid, but did a lot of the damage to themselves with 18 penalties during a Homecoming loss to Hardee. It's wrong to call it a must-win for TC, simply because 3A-4 is so balanced that two losses might still qualify for runnerup honors. With tough games still to play against Berkeley and Lakeland Christian, however, the Crusaders want to make sure to nab this one. Brothers D'Angelo and Kaleel Gaines alternate running the ball for Frostproof.

* * *

Spoto (3-2, 0-0) at Jesuit (3-2, 0-0)

Last week: Alonso d. Spoto 34-7; Newsome d. Jesuit 10-7.

Why you should go: Based on early results, these are the best two teams in the three-squad 5A-9 district, so it's pretty simple: whoever wins Friday is probably going to be district champs. Last year was absurdly simple for the Tigers, beating Spoto 49-16, then Middleton 35-0. But the Spartans look much tougher. In fact if Jesuit doesn't regain the services of running back Malik Davis, sorely missed last week with an ankle injury, Spoto is a serious threat. Spoto senior running backs Todd Sims and Sirbaron Holmes are averaging a combined 140 yards.

Correspondent Darek Sharp contributed to this report.

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