Five things we learned Friday night
1. Noah Johnson has arrived: The question all season in Seffner has been: how far can first-year starting quarterback Noah Johnson take the Hawks? Pretty far, it turns out. Johnson had arguably the finest night of anyone in Tampa Bay on Friday in a 52-48 win over Jefferson. Running the read-option to perfection, he rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns, and passed for another 187. Scary thing is, just as Sean Callahan hoped, he’s getting better. Through five five games, he was averaging 121 yards passing and 10 yards rushing a game. The last six, he’s thrown for 170 a game, and averaged 104 rushing.
2. Springstead might have the most underrated defense in history: The Eagles shocked Gainesville 27-7 Friday night, a win — the team’s 11th straight — not so surprising as the margin. It was Eagle dominance, as they held the Hurricanes to 229 yards and one touchdown. The defense has now allowed one TD or fewer in seven of 12 games, and no one has scored more than 21. It will be interesting to see them against powerhouse Armwood.
3. Big players show up in big games: Diquan Walker scored four touchdowns for CCC. Ryan Davis scored two touchdowns and threw for two more for Lakewood. Devin Abraham scored on a 56-yard fumble recovery and also made a stop on the 1-yard line for East Lake. Noah Johnson ran for 181 yards and threw for 189 for Armwood. Damian King scored three touchdowns for Indian Rocks Christian. That’s what star players do in late November.
4. East Lake wins with defense, special teams: The Eagles have a constellation of stars on offense with high-profile recruits such as left tackle Mason Cole and receivers George Campbell and Artavis Scott. But East Lake has set a school record for wins (12) in a season and advanced to its third straight region final appearance because of stifling defense and opportunistic special teams. On Friday, the Eagles beat Pinellas Park 45-0, marking their fifth shutout of the season. And the defense and special teams have accounted for 21 touchdowns.
5. Indian Rocks Christian is for real: The Golden Eagles had reeled off eight straight victories entering Friday’s Class 2A region final against Naples First Baptist. Still, it was hard to determine how good IRC was considering most of those wins came against overmatched opponents in its district. The Golden Eagles showed they are a bona fide state contender with their 28-14 win over 9-1 First Baptist team that had given up just 98 points all season.
By the numbers
0: Times IRC has advanced to a state semifinal and Lakewood has advanced to a region final prior to this season.
1: Assist by Sunlake. In last week’s win over the Seahawks, Gainesville running back Tony James, an Oregon commitment with more then 1,200 yards rushing, suffered a concussion. Friday against Springstead, James did not play.
2: Straight years Clearwater Central Catholic has advanced to the state semifinals.
3: Games in the past six that Noah Johnson has rushed for more than 120 yards.
10: Games East Lake has had a running clock this season because of the mercy rule (ahead by 35 points or more in the fourth quarter).
28: Combined penalties accrued by Plant and Orlando Dr. Phillips. Plant had 17 in its 24-23 overtime win.
50: Yards a touch Talvin Bailey averaged in two games against Jefferson (four catches, 155 yards, one KOR for 95 yards)
223: Combined penalty yardage in the Lakewood/Tarpon Springs game. The Spongers had 138 yards in penalties.
845: Total yards of offense in Armwood’s 52-48 win against Jefferson.
1996: The last time Springstead faced Armwood in the postseason. The Hawks won that matchup 24-7.
2001: The last time anyone scored 48 or more points on Armwood. That team? Jefferson, which won 63-0, the last time it has beaten the Hawks.
3,126: Passing yards with which Jefferson quarterback Deiondre Porter ended his senior season after a 383-yard game against Armwood.
99.5: Percentage of Jefferson’s offensive yards Porter accounted for Friday, or 422 of 424.
36.5: Percentage of Derrick Ingram’s catches in his high school career that were for touchdowns (19 out of 52).
68.4: Percentage of games Ingram played in at Jefferson in which he caught a TD.
Notable performances from Friday night
Devin Abraham, DB, East Lake: No defensive player in the bay area has a knack for finding the end zone more than Abraham, who scored on a fumble return and on a blocked punt in a 45-0 win over Pinellas Park. Abraham now has six touchdowns and has blocked seven field goals or punts this season.
Byron Cowart, DL, Armwood: The junior had a 36-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown to put Armwood ahead 17-7 in the second quarter. In the second half, he recovered another fumble and returned it 20 yards.
Michael Ford, RB, Tarpon Springs: Ford gained 149 yards on 19 carries against Lakewood. He had 120 yards at halftime and his 52-yard run set up the Spongers’ only score in the first half.
Chris Greene, RB, East Bay: Green had 14 carries for 87 yards in the Indians’ shutout loss to Sickles.
T.J. Harrell, RB/S, Tampa Catholic: Harrell had 10- and 6-yard rushing touchdowns in the first half of Tampa Catholic’s 45-10 win against Melbourne Central Catholic. He added a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Alex Jackson, WR, Plant: Jackson, who finished with 101 rushing yards, had a 44-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put Plant ahead 10-0 against Dr. Phillips. He later caught an 8-yard touchdown from Colby Brown with 33 seconds in regulation to send the game to overtime.
Pierre Johnson, RB, Pinellas Park: Though he didn’t score, Johnson finished with plenty of big plays and led the team in rushing yards (61 on six carries) and receiving (63 on three catches) in a loss to East Lake.
Damian King, ATH, Indian Rocks Christian: The Golden Eagles scored four touchdowns in a 28-14 win over First Baptist, and King was part of three of them. He had touchdown runs of 12 and 14 yards and caught a touchdown pass of 30 yards. He also had two interceptions.
Ray Ray McCloud III, RB, Sickles: McCloud had 145 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Gryphons’ 27-0 win against East Bay. McCloud now has 26 touchdowns on the season.
Deiondre Porter, QB, Jefferson: When he stayed in the pocket he took some major hits as he threw the ball, and when he took off running he was quickly gobbled up. But still: 24 completions, 383 yards and five touchdowns, and something to be proud of.
Rhett Waldron, K, Jesuit: Waldron scored all nine of Jesuit’s points himself, with 27-, 36- and 25-yard field goals, in the loss to Lake Wales.
Diquan Walker, RB, Clearwater Central Catholic: Walker gained 157 yards on 15 carries and scored four touchdowns in a 49-16 win over St. Petersburg Catholic. Three of the four touchdowns came in the second half.
Darquez Watson, WR, Lakewood: Watson caught two passes against Tarpon Springs, and both were for touchdowns. The first was from 23 yards and the second from 32 in the fourth quarter to sew up a 30-9 win.
Daniel Wright, RB, Springstead: The senior wasn’t even sure he’d be cleared to play Friday night, then went out and had a game to remember: 159 rushing yards and two TDs in the Cinderella Eagles’ 27-7 win over Gainesville.
“We’re not the most athletic group of people in the world. We just play really hard. We’re a pretty typical Tarpon team. Our kids planned to practice next week. It just didn’t quite happen.’’ — Tarpon Springs coach Ron Hawn
“We’re rolling. We’re ready to go to states.’’ — Lakewood tight end Darquez Watson
“I didn’t cause it, just running to the play. Running to the play. Anything can happen, and I mean, sell it. If you get it, sell it, get a touchdown, sell it.” — Armwood DL Byron Cowart on his second fumble return for a touchdown
“Eleven wins has never been done. Eleven wins in a row has never been done. Let’s keep it going.” — Springstead coach Mike Garofano
“I want the ball. At all times. Coach even had to tell me to shut up one time. Coach Lane, he was like, ‘Just shut up. We’re going to get it to you.’” — Plant WR Alex Jackson
“It’s amazing his maturation. The last two weeks ...right now, he’s our guy. He’s so calm and collected.” — Armwood coach Sean Callahan on manchild defensive lineman Byron Cowart.
“In 2011 we win the state championship, we were just good all the time. I never really saw improvement. I see improvement in this team. (Offensive line’s done a great picking up blitzes. Beginning of the year we couldn’t block anybody. I take my hat off to my coaches and the way we go about our work.”) — Callahan
Plant (10-1-1) at Fort Pierce Central (11-1): Plant, plagued by penalties and inopportune turnovers, squeaked by Dr. Phillips, but it’ll have to rein in those miscues if it wants to make its fifth state semifinal in six years. Central beat an undefeated Manatee team with a fourth-quarter field goal to advance.
Sickles (11-1) at Kissimmee Osceola (10-2): This matchup will be a run-game showcase, as Osceola averages nearly 300 rushing yards per game and the Gryphons average almost as many. Osceola quarterback Daequan Harrison, who completes fewer than 35 percent of his passes, won’t be much of a factor for the Kowboys, but Sickles’ Isaac Holder, who has thrown for 1,660 yards, could help make the Gryphons’ offense a double threat.
Port Charlotte (10-1) at East Lake (12-0): This game will be decided in the trenches with the Eagles’ talented offensive line, led by Mason Cole, going up against a massive defensive front that has been key in the Pirates allowing just 110 points this season.
Springstead (11-1) at Armwood (12-0): This is the first time a Hernando County team has made the third round of the playoffs, and Springstead has done so decisively, winning by 15 points in its first matchup and 20 in their second. The Hawks held every regular-season foe to nine points or fewer, and we’re almost certain the Hawks had Gainesville scouted to a tee, and will be scrambling for some Springstead film after Friday’s results.
Lakewood (9-3) at South Sumter (12-0): The Raiders appear to be awfully good. They have scored 30 or more points in all 12 games and have given up about eight points per game. South Sumter’s offensive and defensive lines are big, and that could give the Spartans’ athletes trouble. Lakewood’s offense has averaged 52 points in its past three games.
Clearwater Central Catholic (10-2) at Westminster Christian: The game is scheduled to be played Friday afternoon because Westminster does not have lights at its field. CCC coach John Davis said he has asked for the game to be moved to another field with lights because of travel concerns. If the Marauders are going to make their first state championship game appearance, their banged-up secondary will have to come through against a Westminster offense that has racked up more than 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Jacksonville Trinity Christian (10-1) at Tampa Catholic (10-2): The Crusaders haven’t allowed more than 14 points in a single game in six weeks, and they’ve got a dynamic offense to boot. But Trinity Christian, whose only loss is at the hands of 2012 state champion Godby, knows how to put points on the board, too. The Conquerors have scored at least 45 points in each of their past four games.
Hialeah Champagnat (12-1) at Indian Rocks Christian (10-3): Both offenses are averaging nearly 40 points per game. This will be the Golden Eagles’ toughest challenge of the season. The only common opponent the teams have is Miami Westminster Christian. Champagnat beat Westminster 22-7 in the regular season. IRC lost to Westminster 38-0 in the preseason.