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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]
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, 2019

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

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    Berkeley Prep and Clearwater also pull out tight thrillers Saturday.
  2. You'll find Chimera Iloanya and Seffner Christian at the Lakewood MLK Holiday Classic this weekend. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
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  3. Hillsborough senior forward Cantia Rahming, right, is among the nation's leaders in rebounds per game. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The senior has been a menace on the boards after missing out on significant playing time in last year’s run to the state final four.
  4. In his one season at Middleton, Mike Williams led the grieving Tigers to a 5-5 record. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
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  6. Justin Lucena has been with Sunlake since he was a freshman, enduring losing seasons before the recent turnaround. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Seahawks endured years of losses but confidence is high in this group that a playoff run, and possibly a district title, are in reach.
  7. Teammates watch as Lakewood's Elijah Jackson leaps from near the free-throw line as he goes up for a slam dunk during practice. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    No matter how tight a game, the green light is always on for the Spartans boys basketball team, a state title contender again, to rattle the rim.
  8. University of Florida commit Alexa Goldberg is a veteran presence for a St. Petesrburg team that hopes to return to the state final four. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The Green Devils’ roster may not be the same, but there is still that mix of youth and experience that served them well a year ago.
  9. Marcellus Crutchfield was just one Tampa Catholic player whose family recently hosted Australian players from a prominent Catholic school in Melbourne. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    The Crusaders are the perfect hosts for a Catholic school team from Australia that is enamored of the American game.
  10. Dionte Blanch, right, and East Lake remain on top of our rankings after running their unbeaten mark to 15-0. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
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