LAKELAND - It is the last week of February, which can only mean one thing:
Countryside and Brandon are at it again.
In the lastest installment of their rivalry, the two powerhouses shared the spotlight at the Class 2A state meet in Lakeland.
The Eagles, ranked No. 1 by www.Floridakids.us hold the top spot after the first day with 29 points. The Cougars, ranked No. 2, are right behind with 23.
On Thursday, Countryside did everything it could to keep pace. Ten of the Cougars' 11 state qualifiers won their preliminary bouts.
"There are no complaints," Countryside coach Dave Frayer said. "Most everybody stepped it up (Thursday)."
The biggest win for the Cougars came at 112 pounds. Greg Vernon, who finished fourth at last week's region meet, beat a No. 1 seed, Mike Graham of Port St. Lucie Centennial.
Brandon, meanwhile, did not have many setbacks. Of the Eagles' 14 state qualifiers, 13 won.
Today's quarterfinals and semifinals will determine if Countryside can keep pace.
With the reconfiguring of brackets, there could be as many as five head-to-head bouts between the Cougars and Brandon in the semifinals. The most interesting matchup would be at 140 where Brandon's Eddie Hutchinson, a defending state champion, could face Countryside's Dominic DeNunzio in a rematch of last season's state title.
"Actually, the quarterfinals are just as tough as the semifinals," Frayer said. "We have to worry about getting through that first."
The quarterfinals start today at 10 a.m. and the semifinals are at 7 p.m.
OUCH!: Dixie Hollins' Robert Hartline does not have the luck of the draw.
Last season, he was paired in the preliminaries with Brandon's Matt Junkel, who went on to win his second state title.
It didn't get better this season.
Hartline's first-round opponent? Gainesville's Nick Davis, a University of Minnesota recruit who won a state title last year and is ranked No. 1 in his weight class at 189.