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The playoffs are upon us in Pinellas County, which means to expect the unexpected. Two traditional powers, Countryside and Largo, were knocked out in the first round. Two programs which were making their first postseason appearance, Canterbury and Palm Harbor University, are still alive. One thing is certain: The county will have two teams alive in the third round of the playoffs. That’s because Admiral Farragut plays at Canterbury in the Class 2A region final and East Lake hosts Palm Harbor U. in the 8A semifinals. Here is the recap from the first round of the playoffs.
Things we learned
1. No county team wants to play Venice: The Indians are a sneaky good team that has a penchant for wreaking havoc on county teams in the playoffs, particularly those that enter the postseason with perfect records. Venice is 4-2 all time against county teams in the playoffs. Last season, the Indians knocked off St. Petersburg, which was 10-0 in the regular season. On Friday night, Venice was at it again, beating 10-0 Countryside behind a steady ground game and a pass rush that came through when it counted in the fourth quarter.
2. The streak is tough to stop: Fort Meade owns Pinellas County teams, having won 38 straight. Make that 39 after Friday’s victory over Clearwater Central Catholic. The Marauders had their best chance in years to end the streak. CCC had a 7-6 lead at the half and momentum with a long drive to open the second half. But CCC had to settle for a field goal, gave up too many yards on the ground and had a back-breaking turnover at the end of the game.
3. Pinellas Park played better than the score indicated: No one thought the Patriots had a chance against powerful Bradenton Manatee. And after losing by 53 points, those assumptions proved correct. But Pinellas Park trailed only 7-2 with five minutes remaining in the first half. The Hurricanes’ touchdown came on a fumble recovery with what appeared to be a late whistle on the second play of the game. Tyree Graves took over at quarterback for Brandon Hames, who was injured in a car accident Thursday. Graves was coming back from a strained MCL and high ankle sprain and played admirably in the first half. In the second half, attrition took its toll.
4. Morgan Sever is the best punter in the county: Largo has been known for its special teams play this season and has scored on plenty of returns. But Sever might be the best special teams player the Packers have. He nailed punts inside the opponents’ 5-yard line five times in the regular season. On Friday, he was at it again, booming a 67-yard punt that landed at the 2. The Packers ended up getting a safety for a 9-7 lead against Hillsborough.
5. Expect close games in this week’s rematches: The two playoff games in the county this week are rematches with district rivals. Both of those regular-season games were decided by a combined three points. Canterbury beat Admiral Farragut 12-10. East Lake squeaked by Palm Harbor University 21-20.
Player of the week
Rayshawn Jenkins, Admiral Farragut: The three-star recruit, who committed to Miami last week, had the best game of his career against Fort Myers Evangelical, rushing for 356 yards in his first career start at tailback. Jenkins also scored three times, all on runs of 50 yards or longer. In two playoff games against Evangelical, Jenkins has rushed for a combined 605 yards.