Football Friday: The Regional Finals Report

The Elite Eight is upon us in every classification, and with that we’ve got 17 teams (more than 25%) of the remaining 64 encompassing 11 games this evening. If you’re looking for your football fix, then we highly suggest you find a game this week to go to, because many of the teams will be hitting the road next week, even if they win. We’ve got only two rematches from the regular season, while six of those games are predicted to be within one score. Here we go!

Too Close To Call: Joe Pinkos forecast this week certainly catches our attention. As noted in the opening paragraph, more than half the games on the agenda this evening are predicted to be within a score or less. Of those six, there are five games that are predicted to be 3-points or less margins. The lone outlier is Venice, who are 6-point favorites in their rematch with Manatee, a game they lost by 17 week ten of the regular season. There are five teams that are double-digit favorites this evening, and they are Jesuit, who are 2-touchdown favorites over Lake Wales, Lakewood (-11) over Tampa Catholic, Lakeland Christian (-16) over The First Academy, CCC (-14) over Bishop Verot, and Victory Christian (-21) over Foundation Academy. Of note, Armwood would predicted to face St. Thomas Aquinas by Pinkos at the beginning of the playoffs in the 7A title game, and now they’re 3-point underdogs, thus proving that even computers hedge their bets when the outcome is truly a toss-up.

Seeking Revenge: There are 2 games that are rematches from the regular season between district foes. The first one is Venice at Manatee, a game that Manatee won 30-13 to snatch the crown from the Indians. The two teams have played 19 times since 2004, with Venice winning 3 out of the last 4 after the ‘Canes had rattled off 8-straight in the series. It should be noted that Venice were 9-point favorites the first time around. The second game is Charlotte at Palmetto. If the Tigers are to get to the state semifinals, they would have gone through the first three rounds defeating district opponents in rematches. They have faced Braden River, Port Charlotte, and now Charlotte in the playoffs. Palmetto won this contest earlier in the season on 10/11 by a 34-0 score, and have averaged a 24-point margin of victory in their 3-game winning streak over the Fighting Tarpons.

MORE REVENGE: There’s a couple of games where the a couple of teams are trying to avenge having their seasons ended by their opponents in recent years passed. Exactly six years ago to the day, Lake Wales defeated Jesuit 20-9 in the 5A Regional Semifinals, while Admiral Farragut ended Seffner Christian’s run to the 2A title game at this stage last season 20-7. And while Armwood and Lakeland have not played each other in the MaxPreps Era circa 2004, the Dreadnaughts have been downright disrespectful to Armwood with an 8-0 lead in the overall series. There are also two games featuring teams that have never met in their programs’ histories. Those would be Steinbrenner taking on Kissimmee Osceola, and Gaither facing Lake Minneola.

The Outsiders: For the vast majority of those games, the opponents are well-known throughout our area. The two most-notable games that could go either way at this point against teams that simply don’t pop up on the radar very often feature two parts of the “Quad of Hatred” in NW Hillsborough: Gaither and Steinbrenner. The Warriors are just 1-point underdogs to Kissimmee Osceola and even though the Kowboys are going to run from a Wing-T instead of the Spread, it’s likely to be a good thing that two of Steinbrenner’s last three opponents (Chamberlain and Sarasota Riverview) are run-heavy teams, and that they’ve put the stench of the final week of the regular season well behind them, which is the mark of a really good team, and well-coached team at that. There’s obvious differences in the methodology, but the goal remains the same; control the line of scrimmage and maintain defensive discipline. In recent years, Gaither’s opponent Lake Minneola has been the Washington State version of the Spread/Air Raid, but this season they are the spitting image of Auburn circa 2013. All of the pre-snap movement and wideouts in formation JUST to run it right down your throat. This actually plays right into the hands of the Cowboys, but things are easier said than done at this time of the year. FWIW, Lake Minneola and Kissimmee Osceola have rushed for 6,649 yards (LMHS-3,498, KOHS-3,160) combined this season. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how this needs to go for both of our squads.

WHO WE GETTIN’? (5A-8A) Don’t worry we got you. Here’s how next week shapes up contingent upon wins/losses. Should Steinbrenner win, they would be right back on I-4 headed east to face either Apopka or Sanford Seminole. The winner of the Armwood-Lakeland game would be hosting either Niceville or Edgewater. The winner of Venice and Manatee gets to fire up the bus and head down to either St. Thomas Aquinas, or down to Delray Beach were Atlantic to pull of the biggest upset in the state tonight. If Robert E. Lee were to pull off the monumental upset Pensacola Escambia, then Gaither would host Lee, but if the chalk holds, then the ‘Boys will be hitting the road in a serious way. A Palmetto win means they’ll host either Miami Central or Dillard. A Charlotte win means they’ll be in Fort Lauderdale or at Traz Powell. Jesuit or Lake Wales will be on the road regardless at either American Heritage-Plantation or at Traz Powell facing Miami Northwestern.

WHO WE GETTIN’? (1A-4A) Lakewood defeating Tampa Catholic would mean they would host either Cardinal Gibbons or Booker T. Washington, which promises to be one of the most-anticipated match-up’s in the entire semifinals round, but Tampa Catholic is peaking at the right time and have embraced the road warrior mentality. A win for the Crusaders would mean they’re headed down south next week to Fort Lauderdale or Miami. Things get interesting for Lakeland Christian should they win, because Florida High from Tallahassee are 10-point favorites at #1 Pensacola Catholic. Should the ‘Noles win, then LCS will be hosting the 3A State Semis should they handle their business against The First Academy. Should Catholic win that game and LCS win, then it’s the Vikings that would be hitting the road to Pensacola. CCC are 14-point favorites at #1-seeded Bishop Verot, and awaiting them on the other side is either Chaminade-Maddonna or Calvary Christian from Fort Lauderdale. The Marauders would be on the road should they win regardless of who wins on the other side of the bracket. Victory Christian are 3TD favorites over Foundation, and awaiting them is either Jax University Christian or Tallahassee Maclay. The Storm would host either squad should they win. Seffner Christian are 3-point favorites over Admiral Farragut, and should they win, they’d be on the road at Champagnat down in Hialeah or they would host Moore Haven.