The Bradenton Gladiators begin their quest for the elusive Florida Football Alliance championship against the Daytona Beach Wildcats following an 8-2 regular season.
The minor-league football franchise earned the NFC's No. 3 seed after losing both regular season meetings with division foe Orlando.
The Rage bested Bradenton 20-13 two weeks ago to secure the NFC Central Division crown.
However, the Gladiators can exact revenge in a third meeting with Orlando should both teams win their playoff openers.
Thus far this season, Bradenton's strength lies with its defense. That unit has produced stout numbers: allowing 7.6 points a game, 29 sacks, 17 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries.
Donte Brown leads the club with eight sacks, and is tied for the team-lead with two fumble recoveries (one that went for a touchdown). Former Manatee High standout Jeff Charl
ton, who was an explosive offensive weapon on last year's team that lost in the Alliance Bowl, hasn't produced the scorching receiving numbers like last season due to increased work on the defensive side of the ball.
He has flourished in the new role this year with seven interceptions for 169 yards and one touchdown, the longest interception return going for 70 yards.
He also has nine pass deflections and has partnered with defensive back Keon Hines (10 pass deflections) to form a lockdown combination against the pass.
So the tandem plus the rest of the Gladiators head to Daytona Beach for a 7:05 p.m. scheduled kickoff this Saturday against the Wildcats.
The annual DeSoto 5K race gathers a large group of runners vying for a coveted title as they embark on a journey starting at Manatee High that winds through downtown Bradenton.
This year's race saw a familiar face taking the overall title.
Bayshore's Canaan Meester-Kitterman, whose ran effectively at the high school level for a few seasons, blitzed the field in 15 minutes, 46 seconds to take the overall championship.
Other male division winners included: David Meier (Masters, 18:09), David Anderson (Grand Masters, 18:36), Raymond Green (Senior Grand Masters, 22:50) and James Ladig (Veteran Grand Masters, 24:29).
On the female side, the top finisher was Diana Star, who turned in a time of 18:02 to become the overall female winner.
Other female division winners included: Allison Smith (Masters, 23:36), Debra Donald (Grand Masters, 24:01) and Ellen James (Senior Grand Masters, 30:58).
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jason_Dill.