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This season's schedule bound to have more surprises

There wasn't an upset to be found in last year's 15 district games.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002

There wasn't an upset to be found in last year's 15 district games.

Take a look at last fall's Class 3A, District 7 standings and a drill sergeant couldn't line up the teams in more orderly fashion.

Top to bottom by record, each team is exactly one game behind the team ahead of it. No team won a game against a team above it, nor lost one to an opponent below. By the end, there was not a single upset in 15 district meetings.

Districts are automatically given two berths in the regional playoffs, and the challenge for Pasco, Hernando, Hudson and Gulf is adding enough intrigue to belie a foregone conclusion that Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills will reclaim those berths.

District play opens Sept. 19, but the first game between last year's playoff contenders isn't until Oct. 4 at Zephyrhills.

Will this year's race offer more surprises? The most competitive lineup looks to be Oct. 25, with Wesley Chapel at Pasco, Hernando at Zephyrhills and Hudson at Gulf. Of course, those same three games last year were decided by 65, 35 and 14 points, so competitive may be a relative term.

Last year's pivotal game for deciding the second playoff berth was in Week 9, when Zephyrhills rallied past Pasco to earn a place in the postseason spot. The two teams meet again Nov. 1 at Zephyrhills, but losing that game doesn't necessarily put a team out of the playoff picture.

Each region gives two at-large playoff berths to the best teams not among the automatic qualifiers in its three districts. Pasco narrowly missed an at-large spot last year, losing to Sarasota Booker in a tiebreaker based on strength of schedule and only because Booker had a loss converted to a win because of a forfeit.

The key to landing that third playoff spot is racking up wins against county opponents from Class 4A-10. The five Pasco teams in 3A-7 went 14-6 against county 4A-10 rivals, and a similar dominance in 2002 would go a long way to giving the county four playoff teams, matching the most ever.

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