Out-of-district week for North Pinellas

East Lake and quarterback Matt Trotto get to rest up after losing their first District 7A-9 game of the season last week at Mitchell.

District championships might be out of reach for North Pinellas programs this year. Clearwater’s shot in Class 6A District 7 took a big blow three weeks ago with a 21-14 loss to Largo. East Lake suffered a 55-42 loss at Mitchell last Friday, significantly lessening the likelihood of raising the Class 7A District 9 title trophy.

An unlikely local district unbeaten still exists, however. Palm Harbor University improved to 3-3 overall and 2-0 in District 8A-7 play by beating Alonso 6-0. The Hurricanes handled their business against the bottom of the league. After heading to Osceola this week, PHU will tangle with the district favorites, Plant and Steinbrenner.

Championships aren’t the only way to reach the postseason, though, and teams across the state will see where they rank against the rest of their regions Oct. 8. That’s when the Florida High School Athletic Association releases its first RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) standings.

Clearwater (3-2) at Pinellas Park (3-2)

This is the public-school game of the week.

The teams don’t share a district, but the winner earns a substantial bump in its RPI. That’s big for both, but especially Clearwater. The Tornadoes’ Sept. 13 game against Largo was the de facto District 6A-7 championship game. Countryside represented the biggest challenge remaining in the league and the Packers won that head-to-head matchup 42-31 last week.

That means Clearwater is playing for an at-large berth and, if qualified, would end up seeded between fifth and eighth in its region. Pinellas Park is the most difficult game remaining on the schedule and a win could propel the Tornadoes to five straight to end the year. A win would also allow Clearwater to avoid a third straight defeat. Last week’s wild in-town battle with Clearwater Central Catholic ended in a 48-42 overtime loss.

After starting the year with two lopsided setbacks against quality opponents, Pinellas Park has won three straight and is unbeaten in District 7A-9 play. A win over Clearwater wouldn’t do anything to the league standings, but the Patriots could need it if they want to be a top-two seed in their region.

Boca Ciega (4-2) at Countryside (3-2)

Countryside may be a step behind teams like Largo, Clearwater and Pinellas Park, but this team can make the playoffs. For that to happen, Friday night is critical.

The Cougars host Boca Ciega, another team that finds itself in a similar situation. Bogie, however, is still in the running for the District 6A-8 title. Countryside is not, and the remaining schedule is challenging. After Friday’s game against the Pirates, C-Side gets in-town rival Clearwater, Northeast, Seminole and up-the-road rival East Lake.

Countryside’s missed the postseason three straight years and finished 6-4 the past two. Ending the playoff drought may require a 7-3 record. That would mean the Cougars have one loss to give and Bogie isn’t the best team remaining on their schedule.

Palm Harbor University (3-3) at Osceola (2-4)

Sure, thoughts of a district championship or playoff berth may be a little premature, but Palm Harbor University is finding ways to win ballgames. The Hurricanes’ 6-0 win at Alonso last week put them in sole position of first place in the District 8A-7 standings. Chances of that holding through Week 11 are slim, but PHU gets one more week to enjoy it.

The Hurricanes have reached 20 points just once this season and are averaging 12 through six games. The offense will get a chance to crack 20 again Friday at Osceola and a capable defense will be gunning for another shutout.

While the playoffs may not be in the cards this year, reaching .500 is an attainable goal if PHU pulls through against the Warriors.

Dunedin (4-1) at Northeast (4-1)

Dunedin gets back at it after taking a week off. The Falcons get their toughest test of the season at Northeast, the program where Coach Mitch Disney was an assistant prior to coming to Dunedin.

A winning record is the team’s goal this season and the Falcons have five more shots to win two. This is one of those games that would represent a huge upset, but playing the Vikings tight would still represent a victory for the rebuilding Falcons.

Northeast will be playing its first home game since the tragic death of senior Jacquez Welch. The Vikings dropped their first game of the season last week at Dixie Hollins, 42-14.