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."
All games 7:30 p.m. Friday. Admission is $8.
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
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
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
No. 4 Tampa Catholic at No. 1 Clearwater Central Catholic
No. 3 Calvary Christian at No. 2 Lakeland Christian
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