Five things we learned Friday night
1. Armwood’s defense is back: If there was any doubt. A week after Jefferson exploded for 48 points on the Hawks, Armwood’s defense was dominant on a night the school honored its 2003 state championship team. The Hawks were disciplined against Springstead’s run-heavy offense and held the Eagles to only six plays that covered more than 4 yards. Armwood’s shutout was its fourth of the season and first playoff shutout since a 35-0 win over Hillsborough in 2007.
2. Plant has a bunch of offensive tricks up its sleeve: We’ve always known the Panthers can do a lot offensively, but they proved it even more Friday. They moved starting quarterback Colby Brown out wide in the second half and put Alexander Jackson under center. Jackson, also listed as a quarterback on Plant’s roster, has played all over the field this season and has come up with some big touchdowns for the Panthers. “You say you want the ball in your best player’s hands,” coach Robert Weiner said. “At the end of the day, if someone’s got to take on their best player versus our guy, I want Buddha to be a part of that.”
3. Jake Hudson can deliver: The junior took over as East Lake’s starting quarterback this season under enormous pressure. Not only was he replacing Pete DiNovo, the county’s all-time career passing leader, but he is the coach’s son. On a team filled with playmakers, Hudson has not had to carry a team on his own. But he showed he can lead with his arm Friday by completing 14-of-16 passes for 195 yards and a season-best five touchdowns against Port Charlotte.
4. CCC’s defense still is dominant: It was impossible for the Marauders to maintain the numbers they posted last season with a school-record seven shutouts. On Friday, though, Clearwater Central Catholic’s defense showed it still is as stifling as ever, keeping Miami Westminster’s high-powered offense in check in a 7-0 victory in the Class 3A state semifinals. The Warriors came in averaging 40 points and 467 yards. Against the Marauders, Westminster was shut out for the first time this season and had just 183 yards of offense.
5. Indian Rocks Christian has a bright future: The Golden Eagles’ top three running backs (Damian King, Zeke McGaughy, Theo Anderson) all return. So does quarterback Garrett Ross-Johnson and all but two starting offensive linemen. This is a team that made the state semifinals, so expectations will be high. “I promise we’re going to be back next year; IRC is not going away,” coach Mark Buchanan said. store for us. We’re losing eight guys, two up front, our whole core is coming back next year.”
By the numbers
334 Total yards for Lakewood quarterback Ryan Davis against South Sumter. The Spartans gained a total of 346 yards.
4 Turnovers caused by the Lakewood defense — one fumble recovery and three interceptions.
7 Times Westminster was forced to punt. The Warriors had punted 11 times all season prior to Friday.
11 Games in which East Lake has scored 42 points or more.
41 Margin of defeat for Springstead — its worst loss in 27 games, dating to a 42-0 loss to rival Hernando. It was the most lopsided region final game since Manatee crushed Fort Pierce Central 51-0 last year in the 7A playoffs.
159 Rushing yards for Jacksonville Trinity Christian in the third quarter. That’s 52 more than Tampa Catholic had in the whole game.
1,888 Passing yards for Armwood quarterback Noah Johnson. He added 251 after Friday’s blowout win.
Notable performances from Friday night
RB Theo Anderson, Indian Rocks Christian: Anderson kept hope alive for the Golden Eagles against Hialeah Champagnat. Trailing 20-7 in the fourth quarter, Anderson took a screen pass and ran 38 yards for a touchdown. But IRC was unable to get the onside kick and Champagnat went on to win 28-14.
RB Patrick Brooks, Plant: Brooks had two touchdowns in Plant’s 17-7 win against Fort Pierce Central, one receiving and one rushing. The junior, who totaled 137 yards on the ground, has nine touchdowns on the season and has rushed for 841 yards in eight games.
WR George Campbell, East Lake: The five-star receiver went on a scoring binge against Port Charlotte, catching three touchdowns. Campbell’s three scores nearly equaled his total for the season (four) entering the game.
WR Jocqui Ellison, Lakewood: While teammate Ryan Davis played a huge role in Lakewood’s region win, Ellison contributed in many ways. He caught five passes, including a 67-yard touchdown in the third quarter that tied the score at 21. He also threw a two-point conversion pass, ran back a punt 35 yards and had a key fourth-quarter punt of 41 yards that pinned South Sumter on its own 12 with a minute left.
RB/S T.J. Harrell, Tampa Catholic: Harrell made big plays on both sides of the ball for the Crusaders, starting with a sack of Trinity Christian quarterback Jaquez Riles on a key fourth down in the first half. Harrell finished with six tackles and 59 rushing yards.
QB Isaac Holder, Sickles: The overlooked component to the Gryphons’ best season in school history, Holder had a breakout first half in a 19-14 loss to Kissimmee Osceola. He was 8-of-11 passing in the first half with two touchdowns, and finished with 144 yards.
WR Trevor Laurent, Armwood: He racked up 122 receiving yards on only four catches. Three of those grabs came on the Hawks’ opening 97-yard drive that set the tone for another region championship in Seffner.
QB Tyler Mahla, Springstead: The quarterback earned all of the Eagles’ first downs against Armwood. His 17-yard rush early in the fourth quarter was Springstead’s biggest gain of the night.
RB Diquan Walker, Clearwater Central Catholic: After being bottled up for most of Friday’s Class 3A state semifinal against Westminster Christian, Walker broke through with his biggest carry on a 23-yard run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter in a 7-0 victory. Before that carry, Walker had rushed 12 times for 25 yards.
“I told the guys at halftime that the community is on their shoulders. We got to see things riding up here (Bushnell) that some of our kids have never seen. A lot of guys have never seen cows before. This game of football is letting them see places they’ve never seen. Now we’re going to Jacksonville. Wow. I don’t know what to say.’’ — Lakewood coach Cory Moore
“He’s going to be something special next year. Even this year. He’s going to take us all the way.’’ — Lakewood OL Isaiah Wynn, on quarterback Ryan Davis
“This loss doesn’t take away from a great season. A lot of records were broken this year.” — Springstead coach Mike Garofano
“If you have a disappointing season, when it ends, it ends. When you’re this close, and really we were 24 minutes away, two big plays, it’s the worst possible way.” — Tampa Catholic coach Mike Gregory
Springstead’s Daniel Wright has a concussion. Coach Mike Garofano said a CAT scan showed there is no bleeding in his brain, and he’s expected to recover within a few days.
East Lake senior defensive back Noah Vazquez was taken to the hospital with an apparent neck injury Friday night. Coach Bob Hudson said the injury involved a disc, and he will be reevaluated Monday.
Class 8A, Apopka (12-1) at Plant (11-1-1): Apopka has scored 679 points this season, an average of 52 points per game. Plant’s defense has been tested in the playoffs, but this may be the biggest challenge yet. In Plant’s favor? The Panthers held Fort Pierce Central to just 196 yards of offense. The Cobras came into the matchup averaging 376.
Class 7A, West Palm Beach Dwyer (13-0) at East Lake (13-0): A premier matchup between two of the top teams in the state, regardless of classification. On Friday, Dwyer knocked off defending state champion Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. The Panthers’ best player on defense is lineman Mark Kelly, who can be a disruptive force.
Class 6A, Bartram Trail (8-5) at Armwood (13-0): A rematch of the 2011 state semifinal — a 34-24 Hawks victory. The Bears have won their past eight games after an 0-5 start and used a field goal with 4:59 left to squeeze by Choctawhatchee, 17-14. To get back to the state title game, Armwood will have to tame Bartram Trail’s offense, which is averaging 35 points per game behind 2,000-yard passer PJ Blazejowski and 6-foot-5, 290-pound lineman Jesse Burkett, a Vanderbilt commit.
Class 5A, Lakewood (10-3) at Green Cove Springs Clay (9-4): Clay has had a wild ride through the playoffs. The Blue Devils beat Jacksonville Bishop Kenny 74-73 in the second round, then beat Pensacola Catholic on Friday 9-7. Clay runs the ball, with five backs who have more than 400 yards rushing. Prior to this season, Lakewood had never made the third round of the playoffs.
Class 3A, Clearwater Central Catholic (11-2) vs. Jacksonville Trinity Catholic (11-1): This is CCC’s first appearance in a state championship game. The Marauders are still playing because of a strong run defense and a defense that continues to make big plays. Trinity Christian has plenty of star power with cornerback Kevin Toliver II and outside linebacker Jeffery Holland both ranked among the top eight in the nation on ESPN’s 2015 junior 300 list.