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If football success is predicated on playoff victories, the 2010 season has already proved considerably more prosperous than last season for the North Suncoast. ¶ Pasco and Springstead won their opening playoff games to advance to tonight’s region semifinals. A year ago, the North Suncoast failed to advance a team out of the first round, going 0-for-4. ¶ Pasco and Springstead enter Friday’s region semifinals as underdogs. That’s a new feeling for Pasco, which has rolled through its regular-season and playoff opponents by an average margin of 32 points a game. ¶ Springstead, meanwhile, is quite comfortable playing spoiler. After starting the season 0-3 and losing to district foe Lake Weir, the Eagles were a forgotten group — until they knocked off West Port by a field goal to get back in the district race and cemented their postseason status with a comfortable, season-ending victory over neighborhood rival Central. ¶ Here’s a closer look at how Pasco and Springstead match up with their playoff opponents, with a special emphasis on quarterback play since all four signal callers are so important to their teams’ fortunes:
Springstead at Gainesville
Springstead’s Brian Beeker isn’t going to turn any heads when he steps off the bus and onto Citizen’s Field in Gainesville. Beeker doesn’t have prototypical size (5-feet-8, 160) pounds. He has thrown only 101 times , completing 50 for 736 yards and eight touchdowns. It’s on the ground though where Beeker is most effective. Despite his small frame, he’s not afraid to go through defenders. He has racked up more than 1,200 yards rushing, and last week against Wiregrass Ranch he ran the Eagles’ offense to perfection with 145 yards on the ground and 87 yards and a touchdown through the air.
The Hurricanes’ Ryan McGriff led all Gainesville area quarterbacks with 1,571 yards passing in the regular season. McGriff attempted 244 passes, completing 48 percent of them, and has 13 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Against Tarpon Springs, he shook off an early interception to throw four touchdowns. McGriff admitted to being nervous before the game against the Spongers, especially after his miscue late in a playoff game the year before against Tarpon Springs — he attempted to spike the ball to stop the clock but it was ruled a fumble — cost his team the game.
When Springstead has the ball
Before the game against Wiregrass Ranch, it was unclear if the Eagles’ bye week heading into the playoffs would prove beneficial or detrimental. But against the Bulls, Springstead’s option attack couldn’t have been more effective. During the time off, the Eagles added a couple wrinkles and caught the Bulls off guard. Look for Springstead to unveil another surprise or two against Gainesville, but this game will still come down to how effectively the Eagles can run the ball and control the clock.
When Gainesville has the ball
In Gainesville’s nine victories, only Springstead held the Hurricanes to fewer than 20 points. McGriff was ineffective early in the season but has progressed rapidly . The Hurricanes employ a balanced attack, throwing slightly more than they run. The ground game is led by Larry Williams, who had 536 yards in the regular season, but the Hurricanes like to share the wealth among Williams, Anquan Gainey (490 yards) and Raphael Webb (224 yards).
Gainesville is riding a nine-game win streak since opening the season 0-2. The closest game during that stretch? A 10-point win over Springstead in what proved to be the de facto district championship game. In their past eight games, the Hurricanes have allowed just 32 points. Gainesville defensive ends Jordan Williams and Trevarris Saulsberry are University of Tennessee commitments.
Pasco at Jefferson
Jacob Guy (6-4, 190 pounds) has done a masterful job running the Pirates’ offense and spreading the wealth between a bevy of talented playmakers. Guy has completed nearly 58 percent of his passes and has thrown 25 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. Though not considered a dual-threat quarterback, he moves well in the pocket and is able to avoid the rush to buy time for his receivers to get open downfield. Guy has been somewhat unheralded this year, but a big game against Jefferson would change that.
By the time Quentin Williams leaves Jefferson, he will, in all likelihood, own the state record for all-time career touchdown passes. Williams is good on nearly 70 percent of his throws and has accumulated more than 3,100 yards passing. On the ground, he has gained nearly 6 yards a carry. With almost 50 touchdown passes on the season and just three interceptions, it’s easy to see why Williams, a senior, is widely regarded as the top offensive player in the bay area.
When Pasco has the ball
The Pirates feature one of the most balanced attacks in the area. Last week, Lakewood’s defensive front disrupted the rhythm of the Pasco passing attack, so the Pirates turned to their running game to rally. Tre Dudley-Giles took a shotgun snap out of the wildcat formation and raced 64 yards for the Pirates’ first score, and Pasco utilized a double handoff for much of the remainder of the game that kept the Spartans off balance. Both are wrinkles that the Pirates haven’t had to use much this season because of the way they’ve been beating teams from the opening kickoff. It should be interesting to see if coach Tom McHugh has any other tricks up his sleeve for a Jefferson defense that allows only 12 points a game.
When Jefferson has the ball
Jefferson might be the only team in the playoffs capable of going toe-to-toe with Pasco when it comes to game-breaking playmakers. Besides Williams, the Dragons get solid production from RB Demetrious Russell (more than 9 yards a carry), leading receiver Chris Moore (16 touchdowns) and fellow 1,000-yard receiver Andre Davis (11 touchdowns).
One major advantage the Dragons have over the Pirates is depth. Jefferson is one of the few Class 3A schools that doesn’t have to rely on players going both ways. Pasco can’t afford that luxury.