It's rivalry week. The end of the high school football regular season.
For several hundred teams, it's time to put the pads away after tonight. For a select group (96 to be exact) the season goes on next week. I know, I know - there are some bowl games - but for all pratical purposes, the season ends this week.
Some teams have something to prove. Maybe a shot a redemption or a shot at breaking a long-standing losing streak.
Others are hopeful that they can keep players healthy for the playoff run next week.
We'll take a look at four big rivalry games and discuss amongst yourselves...
LAKELAND VS. KATHLEEN - Wow what a game this would have been. Lakeland is 9-0 and Kathleen is 3-6 - on paper. The Red Devils are 9-0 on the field and feel that this is their one shot at redemption. A chance to tell the world - see, we belong!
Expect a standing-room only crowd for this one and the fireworks will be both on the field and after the game. Lakeland has dominated this series of late - and I don't see it changing. Emotions only carry you so far.
SEABREEZE VS. MAINLAND The Buccaneers are due for a mental letdown after a battle with Deland last week. Seabreeze is also heading to the post-season. Last year this was a great game between two playoff teams and the same is expected this year. I see Seabreeze edging out the Buccaneers.
MIAMI CENTRAL VS. BOOKER T. WASHINGTON Booker T. has a chance to run the trifecta, beating Jackson, Northwestern and Central all in the same season. Central, heading for the 6A post-season, wants to keep players healthy and take their shot at Northwestern in three weeks... however, the Rockets have too much firepower and there will be no undefeated teams in the Liberty City/Overtown area after Saturday night.
FORT MEADE AT FROSTPROOF - how about a little small-school love... just down the road from Lakeland/Kathleen, this orange grove rivalry is one to write home to momma about - unless she's cheering for the other team. Usually, this game features two playoff-bound opponents, but Frostproof was eliminated Monday in a three-way shootout. Jamelle Cornelius (head coach of Fort Meade) played in this game four times and is overly familiar with the rivalry. Frostproof gets a shot of redemption and stumps the Miners perfect season with a win at Farris Brannen Stadium.
TAMPA CATHOLIC AT TAMPA JESUIT This is where we are this Friday night. The two parochial schools in Tampa go head-to-head. Both teams are playoff bound, but the rivalry remains the same. Everything is on the line for this one, except a state title. I look for Catholic to pull out the win, but watch out for the Tigers... we'll be live at the Beef 'O' Brady's on N. Himes just down the road from Jesuit - so stop by and say 'hello'...
LAKE CITY-COLUMBIA VS. LIVE OAK SUWANNEE The 'Old Oaken Bucket' is on the line in this classic rivalry that dates back to 1912... If Columbia hadn't joined the Gateway Conference in the 70's, This would be the state's oldest, continuous Rivalry. Suwannee is playing for pride - nothing else. Columbia has a date with the post-season but don't think Craig Howard and the Tigers are going to overlook the 'Dogs. Columbia takes the Oaken Bucket.
PAHOKEE VS. GLADES CENTRAL Last year this game had to be moved to a Saturday during the day, and I think that's a great idea. It gives people around the Muck and the rest of Palm Beach County a chance to come see one of the all-time great border wars. Twelve miles separate these two communities and it could arguably be said that 'Titletown' is no longer Valdosta or Green Bay, but the Muck. Between Glades Day (6 titles) Glades Central (5) and Pahokee (5)... there's more hardware in these two towns than anywhere else in Florida. If only these two were undefeated... that's all that's missing. Pahokee takes the Muck Bowl this year...
Other big games to watch out for this week include:
COCOA AT BOLLES Two state champions collide in what could have been a playoff preview if Bolles had not dropped to 2B. Cocoa dropped from 3A to 2A and has a perfect 9-0 record. Bolles dropped from 2A to 2B and also is 9-0. Someone's got to lose this game... swami says - Bolles goes down.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS AT CYPRESS BAY - Oh what could have been. If the Lightning and Raiders had played last year, that would have been a battle. This game is more about the two coaching personalities. Mark Guandolo wanted a shot at St. Thomas when he was at Chaminade... but this Lightning team isn't last year's and St. Thomas Aquinas is on a mission. This one could get ugly in a hurry