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Playoff contender or pretender?

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 20, 2002

With three weeks left in the regular season, eight of the 12 teams in Pasco and Hernando counties are mathematically alive for the playoffs. It sounds farfetched, but it's easier to accept when you realize each team's playoff fate is determined by its five district games and each has only played three. So here, in descending order of playoff likelihood, is each team's playoff future.

We promise it will be a little less murky at this time next week.

CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 7

ZEPHYRHILLS (6-1, 3-0)

REMAINING DISTRICT GAMES: vs. Hernando, vs. Pasco.

THE SKINNY: The Bulldogs can clinch a playoff berth Friday with a win against Hernando, and can clinch one of the district's two automatic berths with a win and a Pasco win against Wesley Chapel. Zephyrhills can clinch the district title by winning both games. Should Pasco lose to Wesley Chapel but upset the Bulldogs on Nov. 1, the three teams could be tied atop the district standings, forcing a three-team district shootout on Nov. 4.

PASCO (5-2, 3-0)

REMAINING DISTRICT GAMES: vs. Wesley Chapel, at Zephyrhills.

THE SKINNY: The Pirates control their destiny but also face their two toughest district opponents. Pasco can clinch its first playoff berth in four years with a win Friday against Wesley Chapel. Should Pasco lose to Wesley Chapel, the Pirates could still force a three-way tie for the district title by beating Zephyrhills. If the Pirates don't earn one of 3A-7's two automatic berths, they would likely need a win against Ridgewood in the season finale to contend for one of the region's two at-large berths.

WESLEY CHAPEL (6-1, 2-1)

REMAINING DISTRICT GAMES: at Pasco, at Hudson.

THE SKINNY: The Wildcats can clinch a playoff berth with a win at Pasco and can win the district outright if Zephyrhills loses its final two district games. If Pasco loses to Wesley Chapel but beats Zephyrhills, all three teams could finish with one district loss, forcing a three-team district shootout Nov. 4.

HERNANDO (4-3, 1-2)

REMAINING DISTRICT GAMES: at Zephyrhills, vs. Gulf.

THE SKINNY: The Leopards need help to make the playoffs, but they can get in if this happens: they need to upset Zephyrhills on Friday and then beat Gulf, and Pasco must beat Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills. That would create a tie for second place among the Wildcats, Bulldogs and Leopards, which would set up a three-team shootout Nov. 4 for the district's second berth. Beyond that, they could contend for an at-large bid but still face Crystal River on Nov. 8.

CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 6

LAND O'LAKES (7-0, 3-0)

REMAINING DISTRICT GAMES: at River Ridge, at Mitchell.

THE SKINNY: The Gators can clinch a playoff berth with a win Friday against River Ridge, and can lock up the district title if Mitchell loses to Central. The focus for Land O'Lakes is on securing the region's top seed, something it's battling for with No. 9 Ocala Forest (6-0). If the Gators finish 9-1, they will open the playoffs at home against an at-large playoff team.

RIDGEWOOD (4-3, 2-1)

REMAINING DISTRICT GAMES: at Springstead, at Central.

THE SKINNY: The Rams can't clinch anything this week, but they'll be content to know that if they win out, they clinch the first playoff berth in school history. Central is in the same position -- if the Bears win out, the Rams would finish third and would likely need to win at Pasco in the season finale to contend for an at-large berth. Even with a loss to Springstead this week, Ridgewood would still have a shot at the playoffs by beating Central.

CENTRAL (2-5, 2-1)

REMAINING DISTRICT GAMES: vs. Mitchell, vs. Ridgewood.

THE SKINNY: Despite the losing record, the Bears are two wins away from their fourth playoff trip in five years. The Bears could make the playoffs even at 3-6 as long as they get some help from Mitchell and Ridgewood.

MITCHELL (3-4, 2-1)

REMAINING DISTRICT GAMES: at Central, vs. Land O'Lakes.

THE SKINNY: The Mustangs are definitely in the hunt, though their final games aren't easy matchups. If Mitchell can somehow win out, they could win the district title with a Central win over Ridgewood. Even with a loss to Land O'Lakes, Mitchell could reach the playoffs by beating Central and then having the Bears beat Ridgewood, which would set up a three-team shootout. One more scenario: if Mitchell beats Central and Ridgewood loses its final district games, the Mustangs are in regardless of how they fare against Land O'Lakes.

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