There may be tons of movement left in the race to the postseason in these three weeks, but there are several districts that will decide themselves starting this week. Buckle up and grab your popcorn.
Nature Coast Tech at Citrus: This one is for all the marbles in 5A-8. The Sharks head up to Inverness to take on the Canes in a battle of 3-0 teams in the district, but a tale of two entirely different paths as NCT comes into this one 4-4 overall, and Citrus with an unblemished record of 7-0. Nature Coast has been up and down at times this season, but that’s more of a reflection of the schedule they’ve faced in 2019. In fact, the Sharks have the 2nd-highest opponents winning percentage (.616) in the entire region behind Jones out of Orlando, and ahead of powerhouses such as Bishop Moore and Dunnellon. On the flip side, Citrus’ opponents have barely won over 40% of their games this year. All that’s just noise if we’re being honest. This one should be a good one, and with Nature Coast sitting 7th overall in the region as it stands, they’ll be even more motivated to secure a spot in the T-4.
Sarasota Riverview at Newsome: If the Wolves can pull off the “upset” like they did last year, then consider this one of the best turnarounds in the county this season along with Lennard and Riverview. We used upset in quotations because SRHS is the #1 team in 8A-Region 2, but it’s Newsome with all of the momentum and belief they can win 8A-8 out in Fishhawk tomorrow night. Prior to last season’s 51-45 win down in Sarasota by Newsome who finished 4-6, the Wolves had been outscored by the Rams 98-3 the previous two seasons. Fast-forward to 2019 and a 7-1 record and their only loss to Bloomingdale in week one, something special could go down, or, the Rams could run roughshod like they’ve been doing since their tough loss to Palmetto all the way back in week three. A loss doesn’t necessarily hurt either team for the postseason, but it sure does make things a lot more stressful than they need to be moving forward.
Lakeland at Bloomingdale: Another great story coming out of East county is the Bulls and their quest to upend the nationally-ranked Dreadnaughts for the 7A-7 title in Valrico tomorrow night. Lakeland comes into this one without a loss at 8-0, while Bloomingdale’s only loss comes courtesy of 7A-Region 2’s (new) #1 Armwood. The Bulls put everyone on notice when they beat Plant, but then we realized what Plant was. Then they defeated a Plant City team that was a preseason favorite to make a deep run. And then they thoroughly handled Tampa Bay Tech and it was on. Lakeland is probably not in a good mood because of the fact their schedule is what cost them the #1 spot, and not their play. Look, you can only play who’s on the schedule, but when those teams don’t go ahead and help you out by being good the rest of the season, well, you’re kinda screwed. It is, what it is, as they say. Can the Bulls pull off the upset? They happen to be the #3 team in the region at the moment, so sure, they can “afford” to lose and still be pretty secure in their postseason presence. Can they literally send shockwaves throughout the entire country? Ahh, no pressure.
Zephyrhills at River Ridge: The more things change, the more they stay the same as these two lock horns for the 5A-11 title. This game has been a circus in recent past and whether it’s scoreboard-busting numbers being produced, or last-possession drama, this game has had it. The Bulldogs started out the season about as bad as you could possibly start, going 0-3. All they’ve done since is circle the wagons and get a 4-game winning streak put together. The Royal Knights want to settle this one THIS week and not have to leave other things to chance. In fact, neither of these teams can afford to take their feet off the gas pedal. River Ridge sits 6th, while Z-Hills sits 8th. This one is about as close to win or go home as possible, even though they’ll still have a good shot at making. The cautionary tale for River Ridge is that if they lose this one, they’ll have a very winnable game versus Anclote, but a 6+ hour drive to Key West in Week 11 with their postseason fate on the line and against a Key West team that’s 5-2, coming off a big win over Miami Jackson in the district, and sitting just behind American Heritage-Plantation and Miami Northwestern in 5A-Region 4 in 3rd place. Zephyrhills won’t get much help at all with Gulf (who’s already forfeited) and Pasco left.
Teams with *just* a little more work to do: Hillsborough can win their district with a win over King, while Jesuit can clinch with a win over Gibbs, who are winless. Pinellas Park can win theirs outright with a victory over Sickles, while Lake Wales can win theirs with a win. Steinbrenner needs Plant to beat Wharton and a win over Palm Harbor University themselves to win 8A-7, while Winter Haven can win theirs a week before the big game with Bartow, if they were to beat George Jenkins and the Yellow Jackets were to somehow lose to Poinciana. We would also like to extend our best congrats to Armwood, Gaither, Palmetto, Largo, and Lake Gibson on already winning their districts outright.