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Waiting ends tonight with several big games

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2000


The words of Gibbs offensive coordinator Dave Cleppe succinctly sum up the situation.

The biggest games of the season, the games everyone in the county has been anticipating for weeks, are upon us.

Tonight at Gibbs and at Largo, district titles will be at stake. The Gladiators host Tarpon Springs for the Class 3A-7 title, and the Packers host Seminole for the 4A-7 championship.

In addition, five other games have playoff ramifications (district records are in parentheses):

St. Petersburg Catholic (2-1) at Tampa Catholic (1-2). A win puts the Barons in the playoffs as the runner-up in 2A-7. A loss and SPC, TC and Wesley Chapel will have a tiebreaker for one spot.

Osceola (2-2) at Lakewood (1-3). A monster game by emerging junior defensive tackle Tommy Ryan and his defensive mates two weeks ago against Gibbs put the Warriors in position to make the playoffs if they win and Gibbs stumbles tonight.

Clearwater (1-3) at Pinellas Park (2-2). The Park is in if it wins and Largo and Boca Ciega lose.

Boca Ciega (2-2) at Northeast (0-4). The Pirates have been outscored by 141 points and lost all four non-district games. But in what would be one of the most improbable playoff appearances ever, Bogie gets in if: it wins, Pinellas Park wins, Largo loses and then the Pirates beat the Patriots and Packers in a tiebreaker.

East Lake (5-3) at Chamberlain (6-2). The winner is the 5A-7 champion, the loser hopes for a wild card.

The showcase games tonight are the two for the district title.

Newton-Williams Memorial Stadium will be rocking like it did in Shaun King's heyday as the Gladiators (6-2) host Tarpon Springs (7-1).

"I don't know if (our players) are feeling the big game, but practice has been better than it has been all year," Cleppe said. "Maybe it's daylight savings. I don't know. But something's different."

After a one-week aberration in a 13-3 loss to Osceola, Gibbs re-fired the engine last week, dropping 41 points on Palm Harbor University.

The high-octane Gibbs passing attack will be challenged by a superb Spongers secondary headlined by junior Roshawn Marshall.

"He makes things happen, all right," Cleppe said. "They've got a lot of athletes."

The Tarpon Springs offense, behind quarterback Achilleas Houllis (1,395 yards, 18 touchdowns, 5 interceptions), has been nearly as impressive as Gibbs'. It could come down to which team has the final possession.

The Seminole-Largo clash might boil down to the final possession as well, but the score is more likely to be 10-9 instead of 30-29. Both defenses are outstanding.

Among county public schools, Seminole (8-0) has allowed the least yards per game (172.0) and points per game (6.3). Largo (6-2) is third in yards allowed (219.6) second in points allowed (11.4).

"We're definitely going to see how we react under pressure," Seminole coach Sam Roper said.

The Warhawks won't be the only ones testing their nerve tonight.

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