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Hillsborough: State semifinal capsules

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Tue. December 3, 2013 | Matt Baker and Kelly Parsons

State semifinals
7:30 p.m. Friday; admission is $9.

Class 8A, Apopka (12-1) at Plant (11-1-1)
Road to semifinals:
Apopka d. Orlando University 77-21, Winter Park 31-7, First Coast 42-20; Plant d. Orlando Boone 42-3, Orlando Dr. Phillips 24-23, Fort Pierce Central 17-7
Scouting Apopka: After losing its quarterback in the first game of the season and two starting running backs in the second, Apopka switched to the single-wing offense full time. The formation, which doesn’t employ a quarterback, features a fullback, Chandler Cox, who takes most of the snaps. Cox also serves as the lead blocker for tailback Robert Thomas, who has a school-record 2,200 rushing yards. With an 807-yard offensive performance against Wekiva on Sept. 13, Apopka became the first Florida high school football team to record more than 800 yards of offense in a single game. The Darters also set the Florida high school record for points scored in a regular season (529), an average of almost 53 points per game.
Key matchup: Plant defensive line vs. Apopka run game. In its 807-yard performance, 668 of those yards came on the ground, according to the Orlando Sentinel, and the Darters have two tailbacks with at least 1,000 yards. Because it uses a style of play most teams aren’t used to seeing, Apopka has had its way with defenses.
Quotable: “Normally, you watch film, they have more guys than you do at the point of attack. We need to get penetration and not allow the pullers to come across the formation. It’s a difficult task, no question about it.” — Plant coach Robert Weiner
Kelly Parsons’ pick: Plant’s defense has stepped up big in the postseason, but it hasn’t been tested quite like it will be against the Darters. Apopka, 39-28
Matt Baker’s pick: Plant’s offense is good, but the Darters have the most prolific scoring attack in state history. I don’t think anyone can stop the defending state champs. Apopka, 42-35

Class 6A, Bartram Trail (8-5) at Armwood (13-0)
Road to semifinals:
Bartram Trail d. Jacksonville Ed White 50-20, Lake City Columbia 29-24, Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee 17-14; Armwood d. Venice 31-19, Jefferson 52-48, Springstead 41-0
Scouting Bartram Trail: The Bears started 0-5 but have rattled off eight consecutive wins to advance to their third state semifinal since 2007. One emotional rallying point came in October, when receiver Aubrey Thompson was critically injured in a car crash. Senior quarterback PJ Blazejowski is a threat to run (834 yards, 13 TDs) or throw (2,277 yards, 16 TDs) but is coming off of a two-interception game. Running back David Coleman leads the team with 1,342 yards and 11 scores and ran for 152 yards against Lake City Columbia in the region semifinals. Linebacker Will Tillo has racked up a team-best 114 tackles, and a solid secondary has six interceptions and 18 passes defensed. The Bears’ defense has improved since its slow start and hasn’t allowed more than 24 points in its past eight games.
Key matchup: Armwood front seven vs. Bartram Trail offensive line. It’s no secret the Hawks’ defensive linemen and linebackers are loaded. Jordan Griffin (110 tackles) has had a monster junior season, and Hyriam Fredricks and Byron Cowart are standout pass rushers (19 combined sacks). Bartram Trail has some size, too, led by Vanderbilt commit Jesse Burkett. If Armwood can get into the Bears’ backfield, the Hawks will likely be headed to Orlando next week.
Quotable: “They’re so well coached. They do so many things offensively right that our defense is really going to have to be on their A-game.” — Armwood coach Sean Callahan
Parsons: Armwood’s defense appeared back to normal in its 41-0 blowout last week, and I don’t see Bartram Trail and its inconsistent attack overcoming that. Armwood, 28-21
Baker: Bartram Trail seems like a team of destiny, but I can’t see the Bears getting past an Armwood team with a stacked defense and underrated offense. Armwood, 24-14

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