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Billy Pavlock and Pete DiNovo are perfect foils in a twisting, turning football rivalry that culminates Friday when Pavlock’s Palm Harbor University Hurricanes meet DiNovo’s East Lake Eagles in the Class 8A region semifinals.
They have little in common except that they are quarterbacks. And the prospects of their teams reaching the third round are in the care of their feet, their arms — and especially their heads.
They are a diverse, intriguing duo whose careers started as a journey from invisibility then progressed to acknowledgement and respect.
Pavlock, a senior, is the prototype of the new generation of quarterback who can run as well as pass. He has carried the Hurricanes on his back, helping the program win its first playoff game in its first postseason appearance last week. Pavlock specializes in climbing out of impossible situations, often dodging waves of tacklers to turn potential trouble into touchdowns — 14 by himself via the ground.
DiNovo, a junior, is a classic drop-back passer with a strong and accurate arm. He also is unflappable enough not to throw costly interceptions; he has just six on the season. His ability to make big plays through the air has helped the Eagles win six straight, including the school’s first playoff victory since 2003.
“We’re pretty different in the systems we play in,” DiNovo said. “But we’re happy for each other to have this kind of success and to still be playing in the playoffs.”
Pavlock and DiNovo met as starters for the first time last season. They forged a strong friendship while attending camps and workouts this offseason.
“I’m really good friends with Pete,” Pavlock said. “We worked over the summer with (Storm quarterback) John Kaleo. I’m friends with a lot of kids over there. It’s a backyard battle.”
They have emerged as two of Pinellas County’s most dominant quarterbacks. So far this season, the play of Pavlock (1,336 yards passing, 10 touchdowns) and DiNovo (2,137 yards, 17 touchdowns) has been transcendent.
The bond between the two has only strengthened. They hang out often, discussing games, performances and classes.
“We try to stay in touch as much as possible,” DiNovo said. “We were going to hang out this week, but it’s been so busy with Thanksgiving and such a big game coming up.”
Both have immense respect for each other, noting how well the other has done in leading his team to the playoffs.
“Billy has done a great job this season to get as far as they’ve gone so far,” DiNovo said. “I’ve loved watching him succeed. Of course, I don’t want him to do as well this week. Now, it’s more business.”
The same goes for Pavlock.
“I don’t think they want to play us,” he said. “But we’re ready to play them.”
No matter how the game ends, both plan on catching up afterward.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll go out and get something to eat this coming week,” DiNovo said.
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org