By Times staff writers
Published November 11, 2005
Middleton (7-3) at Armwood (9-1)
THE SKINNY: The game nobody wanted to see in the first round. Each of these teams has the ability to go a long way. This seems better suited to a region final ... or state semifinal. Just more proof as to how strong Class 4A is in this county. You don't pick against the Hawks, who have won the past two state titles.
Purks: Armwood, Niebuhr: Armwood
Orlando Freedom (8-2) at Riverview (9-1)THE SKINNY: The Sharks' last playoff appearance was in 2001 and they were rudely booted by Kissimmee Osceola in the first round. The only thing better than revenge is getting to pass along the boot to someone else. That someone is Freedom.
Purks: Riverview, Niebuhr: Riverview
Alonso (4-6) at Wharton (9-1)
THE SKINNY: Of the 32 teams that qualified for the playoffs in Class 5A, three have losing records, Alonso among them. The Ravens accomplished one of their goals by making the playoffs, though probably not with the type of record they would have preferred. Wharton stands as one of the county's most surprising teams. Expect no surprises tonight. Unless, that is, Alonso wins.
Purks: Wharton, Niebuhr: Wharton
Lakeland Lake Gibson (6-3) at Brandon (5-5)
THE SKINNY: It has been almost 10 years since the Eagles last landed in the playoffs. Lake Gibson, however, is one of those teams that gets the perennial tag. Brandon gets to play at home. That has to be a plus. The Eagles have played a pretty tough schedule, which is key to making long postseason runs. But there's that 10-year absence looming, looming, looming.
Purks: Brandon, Niebuhr: Lake Gibson
Land O'Lakes (9-1) at Chamberlain (7-3)
THE SKINNY: This will be the game Pasco Countians point to as their arrival to the world of real football. A team with one loss in the playoffs! Chamberlain isn't the most formidable of foes. The Chiefs played in a pretty easy district and spent the majority of the season breaking in quarterbacks. Simply put, if Pasco is going to claim a playoff victory over a Hillsborough County team, tonight is probably its best shot. That said, Chamberlain probably still rolls.
Purks: Land O'Lakes, Niebuhr: Chamberlain
East Bay (5-5) at Lakeland (9-0)
THE SKINNY: Hmmmmmmmm. Ouch. East Bay wriggled into the playoffs just in time to meet the Dreadnaughts. Unlucky. It appears as though Lakeland is up to its old tricks, beating the pants off teams that wear pants and faking the rest out of their shoes. Not the most successful year for East Bay and chances are it'll probably come to a quick end tonight.
Purks: Lakeland, Niebuhr: Lakeland
Jefferson (7-3) at Bradenton Southeast (7-2)
THE SKINNY: Hey, look, it's playoff time and the Dragons are still alive for, like, the 239th straight year. Okay, it's more like seven in a row but that's still a lot. Southeast is no pushover. This will be a tough opener for Jefferson. Look for a lot of Steven Garcia.
Purks: Southeast, Niebuhr: Jefferson
Winter Haven (7-2) at Hillsborough (10-0)
THE SKINNY: The Terriers are rested. They're ready. They've had two weeks to prepare for Winter Haven, thanks to a bye during the final week of the season. I don't know what more a team could ask for. Bye-bye, Winter Haven, it's been a pleasure hosting you. Now go home.
Purks: Hillsborough, Niebuhr: Hillsborough
Bradenton Bayshore (5-4) at Plant (8-2)
THE SKINNY: The past two weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster for the Panthers. First, the big win over Jefferson at home to earn the district title. Then another big win in a high-scoring shootout (exactly the type of game they needed to prove they could win) with Robinson. Now comes the playoffs, virgin territory for anyone donning a Plant jersey tonight. Can they keep it going?
Purks: Plant, Niebuhr: Plant
Robinson (6-4) at Wauchula Hardee (9-0)
THE SKINNY: An undefeated team is not exactly what the Knights were hoping to find when they opened their playoff season. Several things Robinson has in its favor are Plant, Jesuit, Sarasota Booker, Middleton and Jefferson - all teams the Knights played this season. This will be the week when that tough schedule pays off. A couple of those may have been losses, but the experience could translate into a win tonight.
Purks: Robinson, Niebuhr: Robinson
Tampa Catholic (6-4) at Clewiston (5-3)
THE SKINNY: Little known fact: Clewiston is an ancient word for "boy who carries the football and runs like the wind." Tampa Catholic is modern English for "Holy cow! So, this is what the playoffs look like." Even if the Crusaders lose, this season will go down as one of the most successful U-turns in recent history.