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The postseason prep push likely starts with these games

It’s never too early to start flagging the matchups that could make or break a football team.
In the final seconds of this game from a year ago, the ball pops loose for a fumble and the race is on to scoop it up. Hillsborough’s Dwayne House eventually runs in for a touchdown as the Terriers beat Jefferson. The matchup will mean even more now with the teams in the same district. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Aug. 23

The revamped regions and districts have created a lot of intriguing matchups — some important, some involving a lot of travel.

Key matchups

These games could go a long way toward deciding district titles.

Sept. 13, Clearwater at Largo: This game between 6A-7 rivals has decided the district title the past two seasons.

Sept. 13, Mitchell and Pinellas Park: A pair of district champions from a year ago meet for what could be the top spot in 7A-9.

Sept. 27, Plant City at Bloomingdale: A rematch of last year’s game the Raiders won to ultimately clinch a district title.

Sept. 27, Jesuit at Chamberlain: There will be plenty of Division I-A talent on the field when these 5A-12 frontrunners meet.

Sept. 27, Jefferson at Hillsborough: Now that both teams are in 6A-10 — and away from Jesuit and Armwood, respectively — they have a shot at a title. This game should decide the champion.

Oct. 4, Steinbrenner at Plant: The upstart Warriors have a talented team capable of making the playoffs. To win the 8A-7 title, they would have to knock off the Panthers, who have a monopoly on district championships.

Oct. 11, Armwood at Tampa Bay Tech: This is the one the Hawks have been looking forward to since losing to the Titans in last season’s opener.

Oct. 18, Zephyrhills at River Ridge: Expect a close, high-scoring game between these 5A-11 foes. The Bulldogs have won the past three meetings by a combined nine points.

Oct. 25, Nature Coast at Hernando: Lately, the Sharks have dominated this series. Their past three wins against their rival all clinched district titles.

Road trips

A look at some of the longest district matchups (roundtrip)

78 miles: Oct. 11, Sunlake at Pinellas Park

106 miles: Oct. 11, Haines City at Newsome

120 miles: Oct. 18, Sarasota Booker at Chamberlain

Did you know?

• Plant has won 14 straight district titles. Better still, the Panthers have not dropped a district game during that stretch.

• Clearwater Central Catholic has won 23 straight regular-season games, a streak that dates to 2016 and is currently the longest of any area team.

• Class 4A, Region 3, which includes Lakewood and Tampa Catholic, stretches from Polk County to Hendry County. Both local teams chose to schedule regular-season games relatively close to home and wait for the playoffs before doing any extensive traveling.

• Class 2A, Region 3 has a local flavor with every small, private school program — Admiral Farragut, Cambridge Christian, Carrollwood Day, Indian Rocks Christian, Keswick Christian, Northside Christian, St. Petersburg Catholic and Zephyrhills Christian — hailing from the area. Farragut is a defending state semifinalist, but there is a lot of parity with nearly every team capable of contending for the postseason.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Steinbrenner coach Andres Perez, left, cheers as his team runs out of the tunnel before the start of the game against Hillsborough on Friday night. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Newsome and Steinbrenner also impress in Week 5, while unbeaten Lakewood offers a little extra motivation to its O-line.
  2. Palm Harbor University sweeps the boys and girls team titles at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference swim meet on Saturday at the Long Center. BOB PUTNAM  |  Times
    The Hurricane girls were expected to cruise; the road to a conference title for the boys would be tougher. Both excelled.
  3. Academy at the Lakes' McKenna Smith, pictured here at state last season, appears to be a lock for another deep postseason run. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    McKenna Smith, Caleb Kravitz appear to have a leg up on the competition as the postseason gets closer.
  4. Northeast High senior Jacquez Welch, right, is part of a pregame ceremony Friday night presenting the jersey of former player Marquis Scott to his family. Scott, 20, recently was shot and killed while riding his bike. Welch later collapsed during Friday's game and was taken to a hospital where he is currently on life support. (Photo by Hans Hauss) HANS HAUSS  |  Special to the Times
    The senior, who has severe bleeding on the brain from a pre-existing condition, is on life support.
  5. High school football teams around Tampa Bay were in action Friday night. Times
    The Spartans jump out to a quick lead against their Bradenton nemesis and make it stick.
  6. Sunlake extends its lead to 9-4 over rival Land O' Lakes in the Butter Bowl. RILEY AUMAN  |  Special to the Times
    The Seahawks hope this is the start of another extended streak in the Butter Bowl.
  7. High school football teams around Tampa Bay were in action Friday night. Times
    Rocco Becht and Keith Walker make quite the dynamic duo for the Bulls.
  8. High school football teams around Tampa Bay were in action Friday night. Times
    The Wolves are paced by a pair of 100-yard rushers in Landon White and Jason Albritton.
  9. High school football teams around Tampa Bay were in action Friday night. Times
    The Bulls defense brings the heat in forcing four turnovers.
  10. High school football teams around Tampa Bay were in action Friday night. Times
    The Rebels’ Dale Caparaso gets the shutout against the team he once coached.
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