Commentary | District titles still mean something

January 27, 2012 

For those looking for excitement, for that win-or-go-home desperation that permeates every play, your night has passed.

That was Wednesday, when Palmetto and Southeast and Braden River and Lakewood Ranch and Manatee and Out-of-Door Academy and Saint Stephen’s were playing for their postseason fate in the boys soccer district semifinals.

Given the way the prep playoffs are handled down here in Florida, that’s where the action is. Lose your semifinal and your season is over. Win your semifinal and you not only play for a championship, but you get to play on in the region tournament, where everyone’s march to a state title can be counted down on one hand.

I’m not a fan of the system. I think it takes something away from each district’s final. And with the way the brackets are structured, there is a chance a champion and runner-up from one district can meet less than a week later in a region semifinal, which means you have beat a team you already beat five days earlier -- and perhaps during the regular season, too -- in order to advance.

That being said, there is something on the line tonight. Palmetto hosts Dunedin, Braden River hosts Manatee, and Out-of-Door Academy hosts Saint Stephen’s with district championships on the line.

Maybe no one’s season ends and no one’s state championship dreams take a hard hit. But there is something to be said for winning a district, something to be said for being crowned champion.

It means something to the Falcons, who have waded through their nine-team district without so much as a close game. And it means something to the Thunder, looking for the upset.

It means something to Palmetto, looking to win its fourth straight district title. It means something to Braden River, looking for its first boys district soccer title in school history. And it means something to Manatee, which wouldn’t mind taking some gold -- and a first-round home game -- along for its first regional trip since 2008.

Would it be more exciting if only the champion moved on? Sure.

It it’s fair that whoever wins a district title tonight may have to beat the same team again later in this postseason? Not especially.

But winning a championship is still winning a championship and though the system may not be perfect, being crowned the best in your district feels like perfection.

So while no one’s season will be on the line tonight, there is still plenty to play for.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2097.

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