PINELLAS PARK — The playoff frustration continues for Pinellas Park.
Unlike last season, when the Patriots lost by 53 against Bradenton Manatee, they had a chance against Venice on Friday in the Class 7A region quarterfinal. But Pinellas Park was doomed by two big fourth-quarter plays from Venice in a 31-21 loss.
Leading 21-17 early in the fourth, Pinellas Park gave up a 66-yard run by Terry Polk on second and 16 that put the ball on the Patriots’ 9-yard line. An unsportsmanlike penalty against Venice moved the ball to the 24, but it scored five plays later on a 5-yard run by Polk.
Then, trailing 24-21 with 1:30 left, Venice quarterback Kale Youtzy scored on a 41-yard scramble on third and 8 to put the game away. Pinellas Park is now 1-5 all time in playoff games.
“We’ve got to get over the hump,” Pinellas Park coach Kenny Crawford said. “We’ve got to take that next step.”
The Patriots proved to be much more competitive this year. Despite giving up two early touchdowns to Venice, Pinellas Park regrouped to tie the game.
The first touchdown came at the end of a 15-play, 68-yard drive that took more than eight minutes in the second quarter. The drive included a fourth-and-1 conversion and ended with a 1-yard run by Garret Nevitt.
On Venice’s next possession, Youtzy was intercepted by Tyree Graves, who returned it to the Indians’ 8. When Nevitt scored from 5 yards out two plays later, the game was tied at 14.
“We told them at the beginning that there are going to be some things that happen that we don’t plan,” Crawford said. “How we react is going to be key. We have to ball up like a fist and stick together. We did that.”
Venice ran a hurry-up offense to end the first half and took a 17-14 lead on a 30-yard field goal by Stone Wilson.
Late in the third quarter, the Patriots were stopped on a fourth-and-2 from the 23-yard line. But Venice fumbled and the Patriots took over at the 22.
Tahrelle Mosley made the Indians pay when he scored from 5 yards to give his team a 21-17 lead.
But then Youtzy and Polk came up with the big plays that kept the Indians’ playoff run alive.
Polk gained 176 yards and scored twice. Youtzy gained 131 yards and also had two touchdowns. Venice will play at national No. 1 Bradenton Manatee on Friday night.
Nevitt rushed for 51 yards on 16 carries and scored twice, but it was of little consolation.
“At first we were a little shaky,” Nevitt said. “We gave up too many big runs. But then we started tightening up. The thing is, you can go three plays of stopping them and then that one play hurts you. Just missed tackles.”