Prep Rally | District football finales all about second chances

November 1, 2013 

Say what you want about how Florida handles the prep football playoffs.

Say what you want about the unbalanced districts, about how some teams have to win one district game while others have to win six. Say what you want about the wacky geography that forces a team from the Treasure Coast to trek across the state to Bradenton for a region quarterfinal.

But you have to say this: It's a system that provides for second chances.

Just ask Braden River, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto and Southeast.

Each team has been stung by a district opponent this year, yet each team enters Week 10 with a chance to right the wrong and make the playoffs.

An opportunity. Aside from state championship banners and a locker room full of problem-free student-athletes, that's all a coach really craves.

On Friday night, the four locals have one.

For Braden River, it's a chance to make the playoffs after last year's nightmarish 1-9 campaign and last week's stunning two-score loss to a North Port team that was the only one of the five Class 7A-District 10 participants out of the postseason chase.

For Lakewood Ranch, it's a chance to do what the Mustangs weren't able to do last season but what they've been able to do in the past: win a back-against-the-wall game during Week 10.

For Palmetto, it's a chance after last week's slip-through-the-fingers loss to Sarasota that helped turn the 7A-10 race into four schools making a mad dash for two playoff spots.

And for Southeast over in Class 5A-District 13, it's a chance to erase that rough run through its non-district schedule

and get into the playoffs, where the only thing that counts is not how you played the previous 10 weeks, but how you play the next five.

It won't end well for everybody. Some of these teams will idle until the spring after next week's regular-season finales.

But right now, they're all alive. Warts and all, they are where everyone wants to be when they break camp: heading into the final week of the district season with a chance to make the tournament.

Braden River, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto and Southeast could have made these games unnecessary, could have made things easier on themselves.

But that didn't happen. So they get a chance to do it again. Win and you play on. Lose and you may not.

One more chance to dance into November. What more could anyone want?

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reachedat 941-745-7057. Follow him on Twitter at@JohnLembo1878.

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