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Pinellas: State semifinal, final capsules

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Tue. December 3, 2013 | Rodney Page and Bob Putnam

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

Class 7A, West Palm Beach Dwyer (13-0) at East Lake (13-0)
Road to semifinals: Dwyer d. Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson 35-8, Pompano Beach Blanche Ely 49-7, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas 35-28. East Lake d. Palmetto 13-12, Pinellas Park 45-0, Port Charlotte 49-15.
Scouting Dwyer: Panthers coach Jack Daniels has guided the program to 15 straight playoff appearances, including a state title in 2009 and a runnerup finish in 2000. Much like the Eagles, Dwyer has been dominant this season, outscoring opponents a combined 556-103. But the Panthers only played two teams with winning records during the regular season. Last week, quarterback Daniel Parr threw for 344 yards and scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 40 seconds left to lift Dwyer to a 35-28 victory over defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas. It was the Panthers’ only game this season decided by a touchdown or fewer. Parr’s top targets are Ezra Saffold and Johnnie Dixon, who each have seven touchdown receptions. Dwyer also is getting some reinforcements at receiver with Clint Stephens and Shawann Lurry coming back from lower leg injuries.
Key matchup: Dwyer’s passing game vs. East Lake’s secondary. The Panthers have been efficient through the air with Parr throwing for more than 1,600 yards and 29 touchdowns with just two interceptions. The Eagles have a knack for making the big play on defense with 34 sacks and 18 interceptions. More importantly, East Lake has converted those turnovers into points with six interceptions returned for touchdowns, including three by Devin Abraham, a USF commit.
Quotable: “I’ve already watched (Dwyer) on film and they’re as good as advertised. We’re going to have our hands full. But that’s what you’d expect at this time of year. Every matchup is going to be tough.” — East Lake coach Bob Hudson
Rodney Page’s pick: The Eagles are used to hitting people and not getting much resistance. This time around, Dwyer hits back. East Lake makes it close late but comes up just short. Dwyer, 24-22.
Bob Putnam’s pick: Don’t expect East Lake to get the easy touchdowns on defense or special teams. The Eagles are going to have to grind this one out, and they’re more than capable of doing that. East Lake, 17-14.

Class 5A, Lakewood (10-3) at Green Cove Springs Clay (9-4)
Road to semifinals: Lakewood d. Hudson 75-19, Tarpon Springs 31-9, South Sumter 27-21. Clay d.Jacksonville Ribault 29-12, Jacksonville Bishop Kenny 74-73, Pensacola Catholic 9-7.
Scouting Clay: Senior quarterback Wes Weeks is the center of Clay’s offense. He has gained 957 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing, and thrown for 781 yards and three touchdowns against four interceptions. The main ground gainer is senior Shannon Asbell, who has 1,154 yards on 214 carries and 20 touchdowns. Sophomore Bilal Ally has chipped in 837 yards and seven touchdowns in seven games. As a team, the Blue Devils have gained 4,096 yards rushing and passed for 849. Last week, Clay scored on the last play of the game, a 13-yard touchdown pass from Weeks to JT Turner to upset Pensacola Catholic. The Blue Devils allowed only 148 total yards, and Pensacola Catholic’s only touchdown came on a 75-yard punt return.
Key matchup: Clay’s running game vs. Lakewood’s defensive line. The Spartans’ line must try to contain a five-man rushing attack that had 521 yards rushing against Bishop Kenny. The Blue Devils average 315 yards rushing per game. That means linemen Jordan Edwards, Nyquel Alexander, Tyrik Robinson and Antonio O’Neal must slow down the run for Lakewood to have a chance.
Quotable: “Clay is a very good football team that does not make mistakes. They got here because they capitalize on other people’s mistakes. They are disciplined and play well together as a team."  — Lakewood coach Cory Moore
Page: Both teams have explosive offenses, which means the defenses will be tested. Clay’s option-read offense wears teams down, and that will be the case Friday. Clay, 28-23.
Putnam: Talent-wise, Lakewood is as good as any team in the state. The Spartans will put it all on display — again — as they reach the state title game for the first time. Lakewood, 35-21.

State final
1 p.m. Saturday, Orlando Citrus Bowl. Admission is $12, parking is $10.

Class 3A, Clearwater Central Catholic (11-2) vs. Jacksonville Trinity Christian (11-1)
Road to semifinals: CCC d. Fort Myers Bishop Verot 47-0, St. Petersburg Catholic 49-16, Miami Westminster 7-0. Trinity Christian d. Daytona Beach Father Lopez 49-7, Ocala Trinity Catholic 46-17, Tampa Catholic 20-11.
Scouting Trinity Christian: The Conquerors rank among the state’s best programs with 19 straight playoff appearances, including state titles in 2002, 2003 and 2010. Trinity Christian is on a six-game win streak that includes victories against IMG Academy and Tampa Catholic, the teams that beat CCC this season. On offense, the Conquerors prefer to run the ball, gaining 3,211 yards and scoring 37 touchdowns on the ground. The main ball carrier is Jalin Buie, who has 1,429 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Defensively, Trinity Christian is even more imposing. Cornerback Kevin Toliver II, rated the third-best player in the class of 2015 by ESPN, has seven passes defensed and recorded one interception. Linebacker Jeff Holland, rated eighth overall in the 2015 class by ESPN, has 43 tackles, 11.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles this season.
Key matchup: CCC’s passing game vs. Trinity Christian’s defense. The Conquerors are particularly good at stopping the run, which means the Marauders will likely have to air it out to win. Last week, Tampa Catholic quarterback Kyle Ploucher threw for more than 100 yards against Trinity Christian before leaving in the fourth quarter with an injury. CCC quarterback Jeff Smith, who took over as the starter midway through the season, has thrown for 1,213 yards and seven touchdowns. But he has not passed for more than 159 yards in any game and likely will need to increase that total for the Marauders to have a chance.
Quotable: “On defense, they have Batman, Spiderman, Superman, any superhero you can think of. That’s how good Trinity Christian is. We’re going to have to be creative to find ways to move the ball in this one.” — CCC coach John Davis.
Page: No team from Pinellas County has ever won a state championship. That changes Saturday. The Marauders make history by scoring late in what should be a defensive game. CCC, 21-17
Putnam: While Trinity Christian is stout on defense, so is CCC. The Marauders are playing their best football right now and can shut down the Conquerors’ run game in what should be a low-scoring game. CCC, 10-7

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