Times’ super 7
1. Springstead (9-1, 4-0): A 41-20 win over Hernando ends the Eagles’ regular season with a nine-game win streak and the county championship. Citrus handed the Eagles their only loss this season, and Springstead hosts the Hurricanes in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
2. Sunlake (8-1, 3-1): The Seahawks won a tight game against Zephyrhills, with two touchdown passes by Esteban LeWallen. They travel to Gainesville for their second postseason appearance in program history.
3. Pasco (7-3, 4-2): Two touchdown runs by Malik Johns in the fourth quarter turned a close game into a decisive Pasco victory over River Ridge. Johns’ five TDs were his most in a game this season and his third game with at least four scores. The Pirates will travel to North Marion, which fell against just one district foe in the regular season.
4. Zephyrhills (7-3, 4-2): The Bulldogs couldn’t outrun Sunlake’s tight defense, falling in a low-scoring game at home. Zephyrhills’ season ended on a low note with two consecutive losses, but the team came close to a playoff appearance, an impressive turnaround for the program.
5. Land O’Lakes (8-2, 2-2): The Gators pulled out a close victory, 38-35, against Lecanto in overtime. The win allowed Land O’Lakes to end the season with a positive spin after last week’s loss to district champion Springstead.
6. Anclote (6-4, 5-0): The Sharks could not keep up with Clearwater Central Catholic, falling 37-14. The loss doesn’t dampen the season for the first-time Class 5A, District 7 champion. Anclote hosts Tarpon Springs in the first round.
7. Hudson (6-4, 4-1): The Cobras are headed to Lakewood for their first playoff appearance since 2009. This is Hudson’s fifth postseason game and a turnaround for the program under coach Mark Kantor.
District champion Springstead (9-1, 4-0) hosts Citrus (9-1, 3-1). The Hurricanes were the only team to defeat the Eagles, 42-14 in Week 1. Springstead will need to show off a defense that kept three teams scoreless and held two more to single-digit scores. Keep an eye on Citrus receiver Sam Franklin (418 receiving yards), who recently picked up a Kentucky offer.
Sunlake (8-1, 3-1) travels to Gainesville (8-2, 4-0) to face a team with a perfect district record and some familiar faces. The Hurricanes are led by former Hernando assistant Mark Latsko, and Gainesville ended Sunlake’s 2011 season with a 21-14 win in the region semifinals. The Seahawks haven’t seen a player this season like star running back Tony James, an Oregon commit.
Anclote (6-4, 5-0), in its second playoff appearance, will host Tarpon Springs (7-4, 4-1). The teams last faced each other in the preseason, when the Spongers dominated in a 28-3 victory. Don’t look for a repeat with a spot in the semis on the line, though. Look for Willie Barrett, who is just shy of 1,000 rushing yards this season, to lead a strong running game.
Hudson (6-4, 4-1) travels to Lakewood (7-3, 4-0), which was undefeated in district play in the regular season and once considered a state contender for PInellas County. Lakewood has been pretty stingy on defense in its wins and has been battle tested this year with a tough non-district schedule. Hudson will need its most consistent outing of the season against the Spartans.
Pasco (7-3, 4-2) travels to North Marion (8-2, 5-1) for its seventh consecutive playoff appearance. The Pirates struggled at the beginning of the season but surged back to clinch the district runner-up spot. The Colts have a powerful defense that has held opponents to a combined 21 points in the past four games, making Nate Craig and Malik Johns’ ability to find holes more crucial than ever. Pasco has beaten the Colts each of the past two seasons, including a 31-28 road win in 2011.
Performances worth another mention
Fivay QB Eric Vitale: The senior led his team to dominate the playoffs-bound Cobras, throwing three touchdown passes for a combined 134 yards and rushing for another score.
Wesley Chapel WR Eric Bennett: He scored two of the Wildcats’ three touchdowns against Wiregrass Ranch. Bennett caught a 50-yard pass for the first score of the game and returned a kickoff 60 yards for a TD.
Hernando RB Ra’shaad Hart: The senior threw a 46-yard touchdown pass and ran in a two-point conversion that pulled the Leopards ahead of Springstead early in the game.
Mitchell RB Nate Boler: The Mustangs’ offense was led by Boler, who scored three touchdowns. The senior rushed for 188 yards on 25 carries against Gulf.
Sunlake K Christian Wilkinson: The junior helped the Seahawks to a win with two field goals for a combined 56 yards. The junior has 1,194 punt yards this season and has made 10 field goals.
Wiregrass Ranch K Bryce Wilson: He kicked two 40-yard field goals and picked up a first down on a fake to help his Bulls beat rival Wesley Chapel for the first time.
River Ridge RB Ben Perdomo ran for 73 yards in a loss to Pasco. The senior set the school’s single-season rushing record with 1,146 yards.
"We didn't do very well in our district. We did well in their district." - Fivay coach Chris Taylor, whose team was winless in Class 6A, District 6 but 3-1 in Class 5A, District 7
Times correspondents Alejandro Tamayo and Darek Sharp contributed to this report.