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EAST LAKE — The neighborhood rivalry between Palm Harbor University and East Lake heated up a notch Friday night after a Class 8A region semifinal neither team will soon forget.
There were huge efforts from PHU’s Billy Pavlock (269 all-purpose yards) and East Lake’s Tyler Lane (226 rushing yards, four touchdowns). There were four missed extra points, costly penalties and two fourth-quarter ties.
But when time expired it was the Eagles who survived to play another week. Thanks to a fumble with two minutes remaining and a 2-yard touchdown from Lane in the final seconds, East Lake hung on for a 33-26 win and advanced to its first region final. The Eagles (9-3) will host Plant next Friday.
“I’ve never played a game like that,” Lane said. “It feels good to be able to help the team like that. It’s a rival game. You’ve always got to step up in rival games. I knew it was going to be like this.”
The Hurricanes (7-5) put together consecutive 11-play drives in the first quarter, engineered by Pavlock. East Lake hung around because of a touchdown run by Lane and a touchdown pass from Pete DiNovo to Robert Coggin. The Eagles missed the first extra point and PHU held a 14-13 halftime lead.
Then things got crazy.
The Hurricanes jumped out to a 20-13 lead after a 12-play drive ended on a Ryan Myers’ 1-yard run. East Lake tied it at 20 on a 3-yard run from Lane then took the lead in the fourth quarter when Lane broke free for a 26-yard run. The extra point was missed.
Pavlock then silenced the crowd when he scrambled 75 yards for a touchdown. But the extra point was missed after the Hurricanes received a 5-yard penalty for an illegal shift.
“That hurt big-time,” PHU coach Matt LePain said. “We practice that every day, just one of those things that bites you.”
Pavlock then intercepted DiNovo and the Hurricanes had the ball at their 38. Then on fourth and 11 from the East Lake 35, the Hurricanes went for it. Pavlock was sacked and East Lake’s Leo Jeter recovered on the PHU 44.
Seven plays later, Lane was in the end zone with 16 seconds remaining.
“I’ll probably get ridiculed like crazy for that,” LePain said about going for it on fourth down. “But when your senior quarterback, who has pretty much done everything, is saying we should go for it, that’s not a question for me.
“That kid has done everything I’ve asked him to do. It was a full-go for us.”
East Lake coach Bob Hudson knew stopping Pavlock on fourth down was critical.
“That was huge,” Hudson said. “The defense kept after it. Billy is one of the best competitors I’ve ever coached against.
“I’m glad he’s graduating because that joker’s tough.”
And so was Lane.
“Sometimes running backs get in that mood where they just want you to feed them the ball,” Lane said. “I just wanted the ball.
“I thank Coach for putting the team on my back like that.”