The big dogs do what's expected of them. Middle-of-the-road teams can stay in the district hunt with big wins.
By DAVID NORRIE
Published October 22, 2004
Tradition is hard to break. And if the last couple of weeks had you scratching your head wondering what had happened to some of northern Hillsborough's powerhouse teams, last Friday provided some answers.
The big boys on the block, Jefferson and Chamberlain, took a look in the mirror and realized who they were. Both came out on top of big games and put together impressive victories when they had to have them.
The Dragons held off Robinson to keep their hopes of a Class 3A, District 10 title alive, while the Chiefs marched into Cowboy stadium and showed Gaither that they're not ready to fall from the top of the hill just yet.
While there aren't as many marquee matchups as there were a week ago, tonight's contests figure just as important in the playoff picture. Trap games loom, and upsets at this point in the year can spoil not just a team's night but the entire season.
Some middle-of-the-road teams like Gaither, Wharton and Sickles can stay in the hunt with big wins. Alonso and Leto are playing for pride at this point. Freedom, which doubled its win total from a year ago with a victory over Newsome last week, can continue to build on the foundation set by new coach Adam Stegeman.
It's crunch time. All kickoffs are at 7:30 p.m.
Wharton (2-4, 1-2 in district) at Gaither (3-3, 1-2)
LAST WEEK: Wharton lost to Sickles 21-13; Gaither lost to Chamberlain 35-11.
LAST YEAR: Wharton won 24-7.
THE SKINNY: The Cowboys' loss to Chamberlain last week put a big dent in their hopes for a Class 5A, District 8 championship. At times this year they have looked impressive and then they have had moments where they just don't seem to show up. Their ability to bounce back this week will test their character.
THE EDGE: Wharton's offense continues to struggle, averaging just over 10 points per game. If the Wildcats can emphasize the run and execute their blocks, they have a chance, seeing as how Chamberlain rushed for nearly 300 yards against Gaither last week. The Cowboy offense has not lived up to its potential the last two games, accounting for only two touchdowns in eight quarters. This is the week it breaks out and puts points on the board in a win.
Tampa Bay Tech (2-4, 1-2) at Jefferson (5-2, 2-0)
LAST WEEK: Tech lost to Jesuit 35-14; Jefferson beat Robinson 38-14.
LAST YEAR: Jefferson won 45-7.
THE SKINNY: Jefferson's defense came up big last week against a talented Robinson offense that had scored 40-plus points in its two prior contests. Tonight's game against the Titans is a must-win because the Dragons need to keep pace with Jesuit in the Class 3A, District 10 race. Next week's date with Jesuit, also 2-0 in the district, could be the deciding factor, but Jefferson can't get caught looking ahead.
THE EDGE: Tampa Bay Tech typically puts the ball in the air 20 to 30 times a game, which figures to test the Dragons' secondary. Jefferson forced two turnovers last week, creating scoring opportunities for an offense that continues to get better behind quarterback Steven Garcia, who passed for 211 yards last week. Running back Alex Suber rushed for 140 against Robinson and has been consistent all year. Edge: Jefferson.
King (1-5, 0-3) at Chamberlain (3-3, 2-1)
LAST WEEK: King lost to Hillsborough 35-7; Chamberlain beat Gaither 35-11.
LAST YEAR: Chamberlain won, 56-12.
THE SKINNY: The Chiefs are coming off back-to-back wins for the first time this season and should get their third straight against a struggling King. Billy Turner's team trails Hillsborough by one game in the Class 5A, District 8 playoff race and will probably need to run the table in the final three weeks to earn a playoff berth.
THE EDGE: King has had major difficulties putting points on the board this year, averaging 7.2 points per game. Chamberlain counters, averaging more than three touchdowns a game and is coming off a win in which their running game put up 292 yards and four touchdowns. Chiefs roll and put up big numbers again tonight.
Hillsborough (6-0, 3-0) at Sickles (3-3, 2-1)
LAST WEEK: Hillsborough beat King 35-7; Sickles beat Wharton 21-13.
LAST YEAR: Hillsborough won 27-0.
THE SKINNY: Four wins. It's been a number stuck in the head of Sickles players all year. No Gryphons team has ever won more than four in a season and this year's team can do it, but don't count on that fourth win coming this week. The Terriers have never lost to Sickles and with the way they're playing this season, that trend is safe.
THE EDGE: Aside from a one-point victory against Middleton in week one, no team has come within two touchdowns of beating Hillsborough. With an opportunity to all but wrap up the Class 5A, District 8 title should they win, they will come out focused and on their game. The Gryphons are better than years past but haven't quite caught up to teams of Hillsborough's caliber, making this game one-sided in the Terriers' favor.
Alonso (0-6, 0-3) at Plant (3-3, 3-0)
LAST WEEK: Alonso lost to Armwood 61-0. Plant beat Blake 15-0.
LAST YEAR: Alonso won 15-13.
THE SKINNY: These two teams have flipped positions since their meeting last year when the Ravens were taking aim at the playoffs and the Panthers were in the cellar. Alonso has scored six points or less in three of its games this year and is coming off a thorough beating by Armwood.
THE EDGE: Plant is probably still a year away from being a playoff team but they will be 4-0 in Class 4A, District 10 if they win and that keeps them in the hunt with Armwood and Middleton which says a lot. The Panthers aren't the type of team that'll put up a big number on anyone, but they win this game by double digits.
Blake (1-6, 1-2) at Leto (1-5, 1-3)
LAST WEEK: Blake lost to Plant 15-0; Leto lost to Middleton 27-6.
LAST TEAR: Blake won 21-8.
THE SKINNY: This is a family affair, meaning with the records of these two teams it's unlikely anyone but family will be in attendance. But let's be fair, despite their standings, it's a district game somebody has to win and that is enough incentive for either team to get pumped up.
THE EDGE: Despite having some talent at the skill positions, Blake has one of the worst offenses in the county, sporting only 39 points in six games. The Falcons aren't much better, having scored 81 points. But the birds will be happy just to see another team they are on par with after getting pushed around by Armwood and Middleton recently. Those games should give them the toughness to pull out a win against the Yellow Jackets.
Jesuit (5-1, 2-0) at Freedom (2-4, 0-2)
LAST WEEK: Jesuit beat Tampa Bay Tech 35-14; Freedom beat Newsome 18-3.
LAST YEAR: Jesuit won 35-0.
THE SKINNY: Freedom set a new-school record for wins in a season last week, capping its second victory of the year against Newsome. Tonight the Patriots get a visit from one of the most consistent programs in the history of the county.
THE EDGE: The Tigers own the stingiest defense in Class 3A, District 10, and their offense is capable of putting up 30 or 40 on any given night. You could see the second string early in this one as Jesuit marches toward Jefferson next week undefeated in the district.