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PRIVATE SCHOOLS GO FOR GUSTO

Private school programs take center stage tonight (Friday) in Hillsborough County after most of the public schools played football Thursday. The district race is just starting - and likely ending after one game - for Jesuit and Spoto. Tampa Catholic, meanwhile, may have had a turbulent start to the season, but is by no means out of the playoff picture. All kickoffs are set for 7 p.m.

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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. Anyone who checked out this space last week was warned not to be surprised if the Crusaders, winless at the time, were to pull off a victory against then-unbeaten Cardinal Mooney simply because of disparate strengths of schedule. The Bulldogs are solid but showed they can be beaten, and in fact 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 runner-up honors. With tough games still to play against Berkeley and Lakeland Christian, the Crusaders want to make sure to nab this one. Brothers D'Angelo and Kaleel Gaines alternate running the ball for Frostproof.

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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: It's a rare chance to see a district championship get decided at the midway point of the season. Middleton certainly would argue the point, but based on early results, these are the best two teams in the three-squad 5A-9 district, so it's pretty simple: Whoever wins tonight is probably going to be district champs. Last year was absurdly simple for the Tigers, beating Spoto 49-16 and then Middleton 35-0. But this time around 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.

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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 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).

Correspondent Rod Gipson contributed to this report.

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