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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. Carrollwood Day's Haley Brown leads Tampa Bay in kills with 167. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    Players from Carrollwood Day, Calvary Christian, Central and Berkeley Prep claim top spots.
  2. Riverview quarterback Stazion Gage has accounted for almost 1,000 total yards and 10 touchdowns this season. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The Sharks are on the cusp of securing their first winning season in more than a decade.
  3. Alexandra Postlethwaite helps dish out the assists for Bishop McLaughlin. ALICE HERDEN  |  Special to the Times
    Not much change at the top, but plenty of movement in the lower half of this week’s rankings
  4. Clearwater Academy International's Ajou Ajou makes a reception while working through a passing drill in April. CAI faces American Collegiate on Friday. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times
    One of the area’s top volleyball tournaments, the Berkeley Premier, also starts this weekend.
  5. Armwood's Charles Montgomery runs the ball during the first half against Plant on Aug. 23, 2019, in Seffner. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    There is plenty of movement except at the top, where Armwood remains No. 1
  6. The Pinellas Park Patriots take to the field moments after the end of the fourth quarter against Mitchell on Friday night. The Patriots won 29-19. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times
    PSA to opposing offenses facing Lakewood this season: Good night and good luck.
  7. Warming up before the game Saturday night, USF redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud, a Plant High alum, got his first start as a college quarterback. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The former Panther gets the nod over Blake Barnett against South Carolina State.
  8. Football teams across Tampa Bay were in action Friday night. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The Packers notch a third straight win in the series and more importantly, gain an edge in the district.
  9. Football teams across Tampa Bay were in action Friday night. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A veteran squad continues to deliver the wins for the Warriors, who are currently 4-0.
  10. Football teams across Tampa Bay were in action Friday night. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The Marauders only need one dominant half to get back to .500 on the season.
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