Thursday, November 1, 2012

Prep football: Breaking down Manatee County's three big ballgames

photo by Grant Jefferies
Manatee and its stacked defensive line look to clinch the Class 7A-District 10 title tonight.
Tonight marks the final week of the district portion of play, which means by Saturday mornin we will know how many teams are heading to the playoffs, which gets underway Nov. 16.
Three games tonight have playoff implications.
Here they are:

SARASOTA (5-3, 1-1 7A-10) at MANATEE (8-0, 2-0)
At stake: Despite their 20-game winning streak and a No.1 national ranking in three separate polls (ESPN, MaxPreps and USA Today), the Hurricanes haven't officially locked up a district title or even a playoff berth. They're heavy favorites, however, heading into tonight's game with the Sailors, and will clinch the District 10 championship with a win. A Hurricanes win means they host the District 9 runner-up, which will be Clearwater Countryside, Pinellas Park or St. Petersburg Northeast. All three are in the mix tonight to win the district or advance as the runner-up.
SOUTHEAST (7-2, 3-0 5A-10) at PALMETTO (7-1, 3-0)
At stake: The Seminoles and Tigers are the only area teams to officially seal a trip to the playoffs, but tonight's game decides the district champion and the host of a first-round playoff game. The losing team heads to the winner of tonight's District 9 title game between Lake Wales and Auburndale, while the loser of that games heads west to Manatee County.
SEMINOLE OSCEOLA (6-3, 3-1 6A-7) at LAKEWOOD RANCH (5-3, 3-1)
At stake: The math is simple - winner heads to the playoffs, loser doesn't. The Mustangs won last year's meeting in Pinellas County before nearly upsetting nationally-ranked Seffner Armwood in the first round of the Region 3 playoffs. Neither team gave district champ Largo much a game this season, though the Warriors found the end zone in a 41-20 defeat while the Mustangs didn't, losing 38-0. Will that have any bearing on tonight's game? Tonight's winner opens the playoffs at Tampa Hillsborough, the District 8 champion that upset Armwood (3-0) on Oct. 18.

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