Inside Preps: Better Games, Better Rankings
Thu. September 27, 2012 at 4:18 a.m. | By Solange Reyner
Polk County football has to get back in the national spotlight.
To say there's been a lull from area teams on that stage is an understatement.
Lakeland was the last Polk County team ranked in the Top 25 in the country by Rivals and that was at the end of the 2008 season when the Dreadnuaghts went 14-1 and lost to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Class 5A state finals. They finished the season No. 15. How do they get back there?
Well, maybe win another state title or get deep into the playoffs.
They did the latter last year when they made it to the Class 7A state semifinals. But they didn't even sniff the Top 100.
OK. Plan B.
And, if the teams in Polk want to get some respect in the rankings, they'll have to take my advice.
If they don't want to, maybe they'll think what Dallas Jackson, the person in charge of Rivals' Top 100 list, has to say is important.
Last year, when Lakeland dropped off of Rivals' Top 100 list, I asked Jackson why. His reply: The Dreadnaughts' schedule was too weak.
So back to Plan B. Let's get the better teams in the area to play each other.
Who wants to see Lakeland play Winter Haven again or face Lake Wales?
Seems like the schools would, too. It would likely draw well and could be a good match-up.
"We would love to play Lakeland," Winter Haven athletic director Steve Beasley said by phone Wednesday afternoon.
Added Lake Wales athletic director Marvin Pavy: "Generally speaking, coach (Rod) Shafer wants to play the better teams and we're not opposed to playing Lakeland."
Beasley said he'll try to make the Winter Haven-Lakeland match-up happen next year.
They've played before – 2010 was the last year – but will Lakeland do it? We'll see after the district realignment early next year.
If it's similar to this year, Lakeland will only have four district opponents it will have to face, so there should be room on the schedule.
Say that doesn't happen. How about playing close-by teams that have solid programs.
Anyone think Lakeland-Armwood would be a nice one to watch?
Armwood, 30 minutes from Lakeland, did have to forfeit its state title last year but was the state runner-up in Class 4A in 2010 and has made it to the playoffs every year since 2003.
What about a Plant and Winter Haven game?
Plant, based in Tampa, won state titles in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011 and was runner-up in 2010.
Some schools want to travel to other counties but can't because the booster clubs would have to pick up the tab for travel.
Polk County will not pay for teams to travel to counties outside the surrounding area.
I think Lake Wales has the right idea.
The Highlanders have Orlando Jones and Immokalee on this year's schedule and also play Winter Haven.
They traveled to Jones and hosted Immokalee. Last year, Lake Wales went to Immokalee.
But Lake Wales can do whatever it wants with its money because it's a charter school.
So I say pony up. Or, stay close, but keep the schedule strong.