Four things we learned Friday night
Armwood has some magic, too: You don’t win 14 games in a row and reach the state title game without a little luck. The Hawks had some Friday. Noah Johnson’s 12-yard pass hit Hunter Zilbar’s body and bounced up just high enough for Trevor Laurent to snag the deflection for a touchdown. Nehemiah Miguel’s interception at his own 45 also came off of a deflected pass and ended a potential Bears scoring drive.
Plant’s offense can hold its own against the best: Apopka might have the best offense in the state this season, but the Panthers moved down the field with efficiency for most of the second half, stopped only by its own mistakes. Plant ended the game with more first downs (19) and more yards of offense (458) than Apopka, but the Darters took advantage of Plant turnovers to win 45-29.
East Lake is resilient: Everything came easy for the Eagles in their 13-0 run to get to the Class 7A state semifinal. East Lake had steamrolled opponents, trailing just once and building up such insurmountable leads it had a running clock in 11 of 13 wins. On Friday, the Eagles were tested against nationally-ranked Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer. In the fourth quarter, East Lake fell behind 24-10. But the Eagles showed some resolve, rallying to tie in the last two minutes of regulation before falling 31-24 in overtime.
Playoffs expose everything: That was especially true for Lakewood. The lack of a reliable kicker meant two missed extra points and three missed conversions. If the Spartans make PATs after each touchdown, that’s five more points and they are booking hotels in Orlando this week. The lack of size on the defensive line also hurt. Clay moved the ball up the middle all night, but when 420-pound lineman Nyquel Alexander went out in the third quarter, the Blue Devils really started gashing the Lakewood defense.
By the numbers
858 Total combined yards of offense in the Lakewood-Clay Class 5A semifinal.
7 Extra points or two-point conversions missed in the Lakewood-Clay game. Lakewood missed two PATs and three two-point conversions. Clay missed a kick and a two-point try.
854 Total yards of offense accrued by Plant and Apopka.
39.75 Scoring average for Armwood in the playoffs.
2 Sacks by Armwood monster defensive end Byron Cowart against Bartram Trail.
Notable performances from Friday night
Ryan Davis, Lakewood: It’s becoming a broken record, but Davis basically took over the Spartans’ offense in the playoffs. Against Clay he gained 117 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. He also completed 7 of 10 passes for 159 yards and threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tyrae Boykins.
Artavis Scott, East Lake: The four-star recruit had modest numbers this season with 649 yards rushing and 540 receiving. That was due in large part to East Lake having such big leads that Scott wasn’t needed in the fourth quarter of games. But when his team needed him most Friday, Scott came through in the clutch. He threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to George Campbell and recorded his first interception of the season to set up a tying touchdown near the end of regulation. He also rushed for 80 yards and a score.
Alex Jackson, Plant: Jackson had three touchdowns, including a big 8-yard reception in the end zone, to put Plant on the board 22 seconds before halftime. In the second half, he was put under center for two plays, during which he ran for 10 yards and a first down.
Colby Brown, Plant: Despite turning the ball over three times in the fourth quarter, the quarterback threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns.
Noah Johnson, Armwood: His 11-yard touchdown run in triple overtime was the winner, but his performance was more than just one rush. He ran for 84 yards, passed for two touchdowns and managed an offense well in overtime.
Sterling Hofrichter, Armwood: The junior kicker set up Armwood’s first score when his Hawks downed his first punt inside the 1. That set up Jordan Griffin’s pick-six. Hofrichter hit a 48-yard field goal that was brought back because of penalty.
“I’m happy with how much we’ve grown this year. I can’t complain.’’ — Lakewood coach Cory Moore
“The bottom line is, that’s the best football team in the state, and they’re going to win the state championship.” — Plant coach Robert Weiner on Apopka
“I think we’ve grown quite a bit.” — Armwood coach Sean Callahan
“It’s crazy. We came a long way, man.” — Armwood quarterback Noah Johnson
Class 6A state final, Miami Central (12-1) vs. Armwood (14-0), Citrus Bowl: Callahan said after his team’s state semifinal win that he hopes his Hawks know what they’re getting into. That’s a showdown against one of the country’s best teams with a state championship on the line. Miami Central is ranked seventh nationally by MaxPreps and third by USA Today. Four-star running back Joseph Yearby is a Miami commit, and five-star running back Dalvin Cook has pledged to the Gators. That offense has scored at least 28 points in all but one game this year and will be an enormous test for Armwood’s loaded defense.