EAST LAKE — Pinellas Park exhibited a veteran cool this past week, preferring a coping mechanism that included a quiet anger and acceptance about what happened in their previous meeting with East Lake.
The Patriots muzzled themselves, possibly because of the overwhelming nature of that lopsided loss that relegated them to runnerup status in Class 7A, District 9 and forced them to play on the road, again, in Friday’s rematch in the region semifinals.
But this game turned out to be a near facsimile of the first as the Eagles defense turned in big stops and capitalized on miscues in a 45-0 victory.
East Lake (12-0), which set the school record for most wins in a season Friday, advances to its third straight region final and a home game against Port Charlotte.
“We wanted to come out and play (Pinellas Park) like we had never played before,” said Eagles running back Weston Fordham, who finished with 137 yards rushing and two touchdowns. “We knew they were going to come out here with something to prove. We just had to make sure we got on them early.”
East Lake did just that as Artavis Scott hauled in a 19-yard scoring pass from Jake Hudson on the opening possession to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
On Pinellas Park’s first possession, it mishandled an exchange on an option pitch. Justin Strand pounced on the fumble, and East Lake turned it into points with Daniel LaCamera hitting a 51-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
The Patriots were not unglued, yet. They moved the ball on their next possession with Pierre Johnson and Oscee Calhoun ripping off big runs.
The drive eventually stalled, and Pinellas Park decided to go for it on fourth and goal from East Lake’s 11-yard line. Patriots quarterback Angel Addison completed a pass to Calhoun, who was stopped at the 1-yard line by Devin Abraham.
“It was a blown assignment in coverage, and I was just trying to come up and make a play,” Abraham said. “It was probably the best form tackle I’ve had all season.”
That also was the turning point as the Eagles responded with a seven-play, 99-yard drive that was capped off by Scott’s 17-yard touchdown run to give East Lake a commanding 17-0 lead.
“That was a momentum-changer,” Fordham said. “Not just for our defense to get the stop, but for us to go on a 99-yard drive; that just made Pinellas Park feel a little worse.”
Abraham continued to make big plays, scooping up a fumble and returning it 56 yards for a touchdown to put the Eagles ahead 24-0. Pinellas Park had another long drive in the second quarter end with Blake Duckworth intercepting a pass in the end zone.
Abraham even made things happen on offense, taking a direct snap and running 32 yards for a first down. That play helped set up Fordham’s 27-yard touchdown run to make it 31-0 at the half.
In the second half, Fordham scored on a 15-yard run, and Abraham blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown to put East Lake ahead 45-0 in the third quarter.
A running clock was used in the fourth quarter.
“I just been lucky to be in the right place at the right time to get turnovers and blocked punts,” said Abraham, who has scored six touchdowns on defense and special teams this season. “I wanted to do my part to help us get ahead. If we got on them early, we had a chance to bury them.”