I was paying attention this past weekend to the Florida high school playoffs with a little bit more interest than I usually do. My alma mater of Largo High in Largo (where else?) has made the “lightning round” of the football season for the first time in a few years, winning its district and going 7-2 in a nine-game regular season. (A 10th game was scrapped due to Hurricane Irma in September.) On top of that, the FHSAA revamped its playoff format beginning this season, rewarding the non-district winning teams that play a tougher schedule first and foremost, regardless of what records the teams put up. Each region is made up of four districts, so it’s possible five teams could come out of a single district in its current format. Plus, you get bonus standings points for playing teams above your classification on top of that.
Schools from Pinellas County, whether they are private or public, have never won a state title in football, and Largo has never had a state championship team in a strictly team against team sport. They drew the #3 seed against Barron Collier High from Naples, the #6 seed, and Largo’s Packers came out on top, 27-24.
The outcome is somewhat significant, and I thought explaining why would make a good topic here. What happens to these local high school teams is that they are somewhat victims of their geography, and perhaps to a greater extent, geometry. Assuming the level of talent in the state is relative, what winds up happening is when a Pinellas school goes and plays a team from a smaller area, it usually winds up on the short end of the scoreboard.
Say you have two boxes of pizza, and you’re given the option of having one slice in twelve of a larger pizza or one slice in four of a slightly smaller pizza. Assuming you’re hungry, you’d eat that slice that’s 25% of the smaller pizza, right? These teams in slightly smaller markets like Sarasota and Fort Myers usually wind up with more talent and more depth if starters get hurt, and they usually wind up winning these games 80-90% of the time. Good coaching and luck play into this as well, mind you, plus these “gems” of players that wind up playing on Sundays a few years down the road.
Whats happened in the new century is that these smaller cities are beginning to get a rise in their population, so these school’s respective talent is dropping off. More high schools are needed because there are more children in these cities needing their education (much more important than football), so with time and with population booms in parts of the state, the playing field is being leveled. Twenty years ago, a Barron Collier type team would have an easy time with Largo, even though they went 5-5 and Largo went 7-2 and had home-field advantage. Now, the randomness works evenly for both areas.
I think it’s a safe bet a Pinellas team finally wins a state football title by 2030. Heck, it might even happen this season with a few teams still alive heading to the second round in a few days.