LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Lakewood Ranch football practice looked like the Red Cross center on Thursday.
There were players on crutches, some were in walking boots, others had their arms in slings, and there were a bunch of guys in street clothes limping to join the team gathering after practice.
After eight games, this is what you have with the most important game of the regular season coming up Friday at Sarasota.
"It is the Red Cross. We were playing with a lot of young kids and now we are even younger with all the injuries," Lakewood Ranch head coach and defensive coordinator Shawn Trent said.
"We don't want a tiebreaker (Monday), not with how banged up are. We want to win. and if we do that we are in. But we are going to have to play smart and play well."
The doctors have done all they can for Lakewood Ranch's walking wounded, but the Mustangs could get some help from archrival Braden River and vice versa on this final night of Class 7A-District 10 play.
If Lakewood Ranch wins and Braden River defeats Palmetto, the two East Manatee County schools go to the playoffs with the Mustangs district champs.
Lakewood Ranch can assure itself of a playoff berth with a win and will be district runner-up if Palmetto beats Braden River. If Lakewood Ranch and Braden River lose, they are both out of the play
offs. If the Mustangs lose and Braden River wins, there is a three-way tiebreaker Monday.
After winning only one game last year, Braden River head coach Curt Bradley is thankful to get a shot at the playoffs, especially after losing to North Port last week. The chaos erupted with Sarasota's stunning upset of Palmetto.
The Sailors have won two straight after their coach, Ed Volz, announced he was quitting at the end of the season.
"You just don't know what will affect high schools kids. It's mainly about focus," Bradley said.
"Did their girlfriends break up with them, is something wrong at home or in math class? You never know what can affect their performance. You are dealing with teenage minds."
Braden River is relatively healthy and again an underdog, a role Bradley says is familiar and not so bad.
"That is how it's been all year. If somebody would've told anybody that Braden River would have a chance for the playoffs in Week 10 nobody would've believed it," Bradley said. "We are fine with that. We are never going to be favored, and I think we play better that way. Nobody gives us a chance against Palmetto."
Lakewood Ranch offensive coordinator Mic Koczersut will have a big challenge trying to fill all the missing pieces of his injury riddled offense that includes some offensive linemen and skill players along with quarterback Chad Rex who is not one-hundred percent, but will play.
"Chad is always banged up. He will be all right," Koczersut said. "Teams have been playing more man coverage the last few games and using more people to bring pressure and it's given him less time to throw. Sarasota does a good job of bringing pressure from a lot of different places. Our kids on the offensive line have to stay in their paths and do what they have been coached to do, which is hard for young kids."