EAST LAKE — One-dimensional teams tend to bow out once playoff football gets into its deeper stages. East Lake dispatched such a foe in overwhelming style Friday, beating Port Charlotte 49-15 in a Class 7A region final to reach the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
Jake Hudson threw for five touchdowns, three to George Campbell. On the other side, Port Charlotte didn’t complete a pass until its last play from scrimmage.
Unfortunately for East Lake, that throw marred its victory — and not because it resulted in a touchdown. Had Traige McClary’s 20-yarder to Paulsin Hunter gone incomplete, the running clock would have expired. Instead, there was a final kickoff, and senior defensive back Noah Vazquez sustained an apparent concussion.
Vazquez was taken to a hospital, though the school said it was precautionary.
“Great night as long as Noah’s okay. Prayers to him,” East Lake coach Bob Hudson said.
The Eagles led 21-0 before the Pirates (10-2) collected a first down. A 51-yard completion to Campbell on the game’s second play set up his 5-yard score. Port Charlotte went backward, and a bad snap on the punt gave East Lake the ball at the 11 with Hudson hitting Campbell for a 9-yard strike. Soon after, Artavis Scott returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown.
Hudson went 14-of-16 for 195 yards, six completions for 120 yards going to Campbell. The quarterback said Port Charlotte’s scheme helped him flare the ball out to open targets.
“Most teams have been playing us man,” Hudson said. “But those guys were running some Cover 3 and off man.”
Scott had 44 yards from scrimmage and scored from 9 yards out on the last play of the first half. That was thanks to one of five personal fouls on Port Charlotte, this one after Scott was stopped. Instead of a long field goal try, it was 35-7 at the break.
Dillon Zettweuch added two touchdown grabs, one off of a play fake from Hudson, and Campbell hauled in a 45-yarder for East Lake’s final points.
“The coaches up in the box did a great job of seeing what they were running,” Campbell said.
On defense, East Lake (13-0) smothered the Pirates, who have four running backs with more than 400 yards. Except for Anthony Stephens’ 27-yard touchdown run, which came one play after an interception, the Pirates managed just 30 yards on 36 carries. Carson Lydon had three sacks.
Things likely will be more difficult next week when the Eagles host Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer.
“It’s going to be real tough, but I think we’re ready for it,” Scott said. “We want to show everybody this is where we deserve to be.”