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No. 8 seeds Clearwater, St. Petersburg vie for upsets

By Rodney Page
Senior defensive back/running back Jalynn Williams, a Florida commit, has been out since the second game of the season (ankle) but likely will see limited action in this week's playoff game. (Lara Cerri, Times)

Clearwater and St. Petersburg arenít taking much momentum into the playoffs, but at least they are playing tonight. Both teams are No. 8 seeds, which means they will be paired against the best team in the bracket.

In the case of Clearwater (6-4), that is North Fort Myers. The Red Knights are 8-0 and have three straight shutouts to end the season. And an interesting note, they are coached by former Florida and Bucs running back Earnest Graham.

The Tornadoes, on the other hand, have lost two straight to rivals Largo and East Lake. That doesnít mean they arenít showing up.

"They are a good team no doubt but they arenít unbeatable," Clearwater coach Don Mesick said. "They donít have playoff experience and we do. We have guys who have been through it before. In order to win we have to play a near perfect game and hope they make mistakes."

St. Petersburg is 6-4 and ended the season with a 38-14 loss to Braden River. The Green Devils get to play at No. 1 seed Venice.

They have been a bit shorthanded this season. Senior defensive back/running back Jalynn Williams, a Florida commit, has been out since the second game of the season against Lakewood with an ankle injury. St. Petersburg coach Joe Fabrizio said Williams has been cleared to play this week but his time may be limited.

"It hurts when you donít have your Division I athlete on the field," Fabrizio said.

Cornerback/running back Anthony Johnson, an Iowa State commit, has missed two midseason games with a knee injury. He is back in the lineup.

Despite the injuries and last weekís loss, Fabrizio said the playoffs are a second chance.

"Itís all about working hard so that you can get in the playoffs," he said. "Once you get there, everybody is equal. Youíve got to prepare yourself like it is another game."

Playoff football

All games 7:30 p.m. Friday. Admission is $8.

REGION QUARTERFINALS

7A

No. 6 East River at No. 3 Plant

No. 7 Gaither at No. 2 Viera

No. 5 Wiregrass Ranch at No. 4 Lake Nona

No. 8 St. Petersburg at No. 1 Venice

No. 7 Bloomingdale at No. 2 Tampa Bay Tech

No. 6 Palmetto at No. 3 Pinellas Park

6A

No. 6 Barron Collier at No. 3 Largo

No. 8 Clearwater at No. 1 North Fort Myers

No. 7 Chamberlain at No. 2 Mitchell

No. 8 Sebring at No. 1 Armwood

No. 5 Hillsborough at No. 4 Lake Gibson

5A

No. 6 Jesuit at No. 3 Jefferson

No. 7 Tarpon Springs at No. 2 Lakewood

No. 6 Clay at No. 3 Hernando

No. 7 River Ridge at No. 2 Zephyrhills

No. 8 Nature Coast at No.1 Baker County

REGION SEMIFINALS

3A

No. 4 Tampa Catholic at No. 1 Clearwater Central Catholic

No. 3 Calvary Christian at No. 2 Lakeland Christian

2A

No. 4 Southwest Florida Christian at No. 1 Cambridge Christian

No. 3 Admiral Farragut at No. 2 Indian Rocks Christian

No. 4 Zephyrhills Christian at No. 1 Victory Christian