Class 5A-District 6
at Strawberry Crest
SCHEDULE: Tuesday: Wharton (7) vs. Riverview (2), 3 p.m.; Bloomingdale (6) vs. Durant (3), 5 p.m.; Strawberry Crest (5) vs. Lakeland Jenkins (4), 7 p.m.; Wednesday: Durant-Bloomingdale winner vs. Riverview-Wharton winner, 5 p.m.; Newsome (1) vs. Jenkins-Strawberry Crest winner. Friday: Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
OUTLOOK: Newsome (12-5-1) caught the injury bug midway through the season, but the Wolves finished on a winning streak. The Wolves earned a first-round bye by going undefeated in district play, but had a 2-2 draw with Durant, the third seed. Riverview showed it was tournament-ready by winning the King Invitational at the beginning of January.
Class 5A-District 7
SCHEDULE: Tuesday: Countryside (5) vs. Plant (3), 5 p.m.; Alonso (6) vs. Palm Harbor (4), 7 p.m. Wednesday: Plant-Countryside winner vs. East Lake (2), 5 p.m.; Palm Harbor-Alonso winner vs. Steinbrenner (1), 7 p.m. Friday: Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
OUTLOOK: Steinbrenner (14-1-1) had a solid season in its first year in Class 5A and earned the top seed by going 4-0-1 in the district. The Warriors, last year’s 4A state runner-up and ranked No. 13 in the nation by MaxPreps.com, won 11 straight to close the season, and only a loss to Newsome and a draw with Plant early in the season blemish the record of a team that won the Berkeley Prep Invitational Tournament in mid-December. East Lake (14-1) lost to Steinbrenner 3-1 in the regular season, but otherwise outscored opponents 50-7. The Eagles topped Countryside 3-0 in the regular season and snuck by Plant 2-1 in previous meetings, so a second-round matchup with either team could be trouble. Plant handled Countryside, 4-1, on Dec. 19 en route to an 8-2-6 record.
Class 4A-District 8
SCHEDULE: Today: Gaither (5) vs. Freedom (4), 7 p.m. Tuesday: Chamberlain (6) vs. Sickles (3), 6 p.m.; Leto (7) vs. Wiregrass Ranch (2), 8 p.m. Thursday: Freedom-Gaither winner vs. Mitchell (1), 6 p.m.; Sickles-Chamberlain winner vs. Wiregrass Ranch-Leto winner, 8 p.m. Friday: Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
OUTLOOK: Mitchell (19-2-1), No. 11 in the state according to MaxPreps.com, went 11-0-1 after losing to the nation’s top team, Montverde Academy, and the Mustangs went 5-0-1 against district opponents with a 1-1 draw against Gaither as the only mark on its 4A-8 season. No. 2 seed Wiregrass Ranch fell to Mitchell, 3-1, in their previous meeting, which was the only loss of the year for the Bulls.
Class 4A-District 9
SCHEDULE: Tuesday: Blake (9) vs. Armwood (8), 4 p.m.; Hillsborough (5) vs. Lennard (4), 6 p.m.; East Bay (7) vs. King (2), 8 p.m. Wednesday: Tampa Bay Tech (6) vs. Plant City (3), 6 p.m. Armwood-Blake winner vs. Brandon (1), 8 p.m. Thursday: Plant City-TBT winner vs. King-East Bay winner, 6 p.m.; Lennard-Hillsborough winner vs. Armwood-Blake-Brandon winner, 8 p.m. Friday: Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
OUTLOOK: Brandon was defeated in the opener of the King Invitational, 1-0, by Tampa Bay Tech for its only loss of the season. A lot of pieces have to fall into place as Plant City, Lennard and Hillsborough are all good teams, but a rematch of Brandon and King from their regular-season draw would make for an excellent final. For Brandon, it means avoiding a slip against either Armwood, Blake, Lennard or Hillsborough, and for the Lions it means finding a way to score against two of the three teams it tied with during the regular season.
Class 3A-District 9
SCHEDULE: Tuesday: Middleton (7) vs. Robinson (2), 4 p.m.; Jefferson (5) vs. Spoto (4), 6 p.m.; Bradenton Bayshore (6) vs. Bradenton Southeast (3), 8 p.m. Wednesday: Southeast-Bayshore winner vs. Robinson-Middleton winner, 6 p.m.; Spoto-Jefferson winner vs. Jesuit (1), 8 p.m. Friday: Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
OUTLOOK: Jesuit (11-4-3) had a draw against Jefferson, but otherwise proved very difficult for the rest of this field. The Tigers’ non-district schedule included some of the state’s best and a late-season loss to Tampa Prep may serve to fire up a team that consistently churns out district titles. Spoto and Jefferson tied in the regular season, but certainly Jesuit is hoping to see the Dragons in the semifinals to settle the earlier draw. No. 2 seed Robinson dropped eight of its last 10 matches, but went 3-2-1 in district play.
Class 2A-District 9
at St. Pete Catholic
SCHEDULE: Tuesday: Tampa Catholic (5) vs. Berkeley Prep (4), 7 p.m. Wednesday: Clearwater Central Catholic (3) vs. Tampa Prep (2), 5 p.m.; Berkeley-TC winner vs. St. Pete Catholic (1), 7 p.m. Friday: Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
OUTLOOK: St. Pete Catholic went 2-0-2 in district play, including a November win against Tampa Prep, earning the host Barons the top seed. Tampa Prep was last year’s 2A state champ and although a 6-4-5 record isn’t outstanding, the Terrapins ended their regular season with a draw against a tough Riverview side and wins against Berkeley Prep, Jesuit and Indian Rocks Christian. CCC and Tampa Prep played to a 1-1 draw in the regular season, making for an interesting semifinal matchup on Wednesday.
Class 1A-District 5
at Bishop McLaughlin
(First-round matchups at higher seed)
SCHEDULE: Tuesday: Tampa Bay HEAT (8) at Carrollwood Day (1), 4:30 p.m.; Brooks DeBartolo (7) at Bishop McLaughlin (2), 4:30 p.m.; Academy at the Lakes (6) at Cambridge Christian (3), 4:30 p.m.; Universal Academy (5) at Seffner Christian (4), 4:30 p.m. Friday: Seffner Chr.-Universal Academy winner vs. Tampa Bay HEAT-Carrollwood Day winner, 5 p.m.; Academy at the Lakes-Cambridge Chr. winner vs. Bishop McLaughlin-Brooks DeBartolo winner, 7 p.m. Saturday: Semifinal winners, 2 p.m.
OUTLOOK: Playing in an eight-team district, Carrollwood Day made the most of its chances, going 12-0-1 against 1A-5 opponents. The only blemish was a loss to Bishop McLaughlin in early December, which was avenged in early January. The old adage of it being hard to beat a good team three times in a season may emerge as Cambridge Christian and Seffner Christian bring tough teams into this tournament.