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Playoff football capsules: Class 5A

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Tue. November 11, 2014 | Kelly Parsons and Bob Putnam

Playoff football capsules: Class 5A

Class 5A region quarterfinals

Spoto (7-3) at Lake Wales (8-2)
Winner plays: Jesuit-Auburndale winner
Scouting report: With eight wins — more than Spoto has ever had in a single season — Lake Wales has improved from a year ago. But so has Spoto. Todd Sims leads the Spartans with 853 yards rushing, 332 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. Lake Wales hasn’t done a lot through the air, but senior running backs Justin Henderson and Earnest Hamilton have combined for 714 yards and eight touchdowns. Though on paper the Highlanders have had a more successful regular season, six of their eight wins have been against teams with a losing record. That fact has given the Spartans hope, coach Dale Caparaso said, that they can reach a school benchmark by winning the program’s first playoff game.
Audible: “They’re a run-oriented team. They’ll line up in the split back and the I, and we expect them to come right at us.” — Caparaso
Prediction: Spoto, 35-31

Auburndale (6-4) at Jesuit (6-4)
Winner plays: Spoto-Lake Wales winner
Scouting report: Auburndale’s offense relies on a strong ground game, with running backs Artavis Pierce (1,019 yards, 11 touchdowns), Wilbur Cooper (637 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Jessie Britt (437 yards, 11 touchdowns) leading the way. But Jesuit can also play that game. Malik Davis, the Tigers’ leading rusher with 1,314 yards, has proven to be a game changer, helping Jesuit come from behind in its regular-season finale against rival Tampa Catholic. Stopping Auburndale’s run-heavy offense, though, will be the key for the Tigers. Jesuit’s defense has been suspect at times this season, allowing at least 24 points in five of its 10 regular-season games. 
Audible: “They’re sort of like a Spoto team where their receivers are fast, all three running backs are good. …All three of them will hurt you.” — Jesuit coach Matt Thompson
Prediction: Auburndale, 28-24

Gulf (8-2) at Lakewood (7-3)
Winner plays: Tarpon Springs-River Ridge winner
Scouting report: Lakewood quarterback Ryan Davis has thrown for 1,761 yards and 17 touchdowns, while rushing for another 1,000 or so and 12 TDs. His senior counterpart at Gulf, Keshaun Peters, has thrown for 2,064 yards and 16 touchdowns, while rushing for 700-plus and 11 TDs. So it’s safe to say the QB matchup should be intriguing. With both teams’ playmakers under center, also keep an eye on Gulf’s Chance Belloise (13.5 sacks, tied for 10th in the state) and Lakewood’s Tristan Mcgowan (nine sacks). If one of these guys has a big game, watch out. Lakewood comes in more battle tested, especially in the playoffs. The Spartans are making their eighth appearance in the 2000s, advancing to the state semifinals a year ago. This is Gulf’s third trip total — and first since 2008. 
Audible: “This is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, it’s all about how you’re playing now.” — Lakewood coach Cory Moore 
Prediction: Lakewood 38-28

Tarpon Springs (7-3) at River Ridge (9-1)
Winner plays: Gulf-Lakewood winner
Scouting report: River Ridge, which has won eight straight, is in the playoffs for the first time since 1998. On offense, the Royal Knights rely almost exclusively on the run. Running back Chris Schwarz has set the school record for rushing yards with 2,138 and 23 touchdowns. Schwarz has been consistent, gaining at least 100 yards in all 10 games. Because of his performance, River Ridge has attempted just 40 passes. Tarpon Springs has a number of playmakers. Daniel Davis, a transfer from Gibbs, set the school record with 1,120 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. Running back Michael Ford has been on a tear with a combined 691 yards rushing the past three games, including a school-record 398 against Dixie Hollins in the regular-season finale last week. 
Audible: “History is on our side. If we beat River Ridge, that will be the best team we’ve beat this year. If River Ridge beats us, we’ll be the best team they’ve beaten. It’s that close.” — Tarpon Springs coach Ron Hawn
Prediction: Tarpon Springs, 21-20

Zephyrhills (8-2) at Live Oak Suwannee (9-1)
Winner plays: North Marion-South Sumter winner
Scouting report: Zephyrhills is in the playoffs for the first time since 2006 after winning a tiebreaker in Class 5A, District 6 to secure the runnerup spot. The Bulldogs can pile on the points, scoring 45 or more in six games, all wins. Jaylen Pickett has rushed for 1,056 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Zephyrhills senior also is a playmaker on defense with a team-leading four interceptions, and has scored on an interception and fumble return this season. Teammate Jackie Tucker has quietly put together a solid season with 462 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Suwannee is in the playoffs for the second straight season. After winning their first nine games, the Bulldogs dropped their regular-season finale to Lake City Columbia. Seven of Suwannee’s wins have been by double digits. 
Audible: “The playoffs were a goal since I’ve been in high school so I’m excited about the opportunity. We have to show great teamwork and be able to bounce back from adversity in order to win.” — Pickett
Prediction: Zephyrhills, 24-21

Times staff 

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