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Young Pinellas Park ready for the postseason

By Rodney Page
Pinellas Park, which won its district, starts 13 sophomores. (Loren Elliott, Times)

Pinellas Park is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2014. This could be the start of a trend.

The Patriots start 13 sophomores, including quarterback Brandon Coppola (676 passing yards), running back Lawrance Toafili (school-record 1,583 yards, 21 touchdowns) and safety Cody Willoughby (five interceptions). There are 25 sophomores on the 47-man roster.

"And our junior varsity was 10-0," coach Kenny Crawford said.

Pinellas Park earned a No. 3 seed and will open the playoffs at home against No. 6 Palmetto. The Patriots officially lost only two games this season, to Lakewood and Countryside. They lost to East Lake on the field but the Eagles had to later forfeit the game for using an ineligible player.

The Patriot players said they didn’t know what kind of a team they were until a season-opening win over River Ridge.

"We were young but I thought we could do this," Willoughby said. "I think when we beat River Ridge that was pretty impressive and we thought we had a pretty good team."

Coppola, a first-time starter, saw promise during preseason practices.

"I knew we had the potential when the season started," he said. "It was just a matter of us coming together."

Which they did. The Patriots get at least one extra game, and they are not taking this week for granted.

"This is a whole different environment now," senior cornerback Rodney Silvis said. "We’re usually pretty loose but this week is more serious."

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