Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Hawks highlight double dose of prep football action

For one team it's old hat, and for the other it's uncharted territory.

East Bay, which opened in 1957, makes its first-ever appearance in the second round of the playoffs after defeating Gaither last week. And Armwood is still undefeated and rolling into this evening's region semifinal after beating Venice.

If fans could split into two and attend each game, they would. At Armwood's Lyle Flagg Field, there's a chance to see a cadre of future Division 1 players on both sides. At Sickles lies the opportunity to root for the gritty, underdog Indians.

Can you go wrong either way?

Jefferson (10-1) at Armwood (11-0)

Last week: Jefferson defeated Largo 25-17; Armwood defeated Venice 31-19.

Why you should go: This is the second meeting between these teams, with Armwood winning the opener 28-9 to all but lock up the 6A-8 title and handing Jefferson its lone loss of the season. The last time the Dragons beat Armwood, they really beat Armwood, hammering the Hawks 63-0. But if you don't remember that game it's because it nearly happened last century (2001). It has been all Armwood since, winning the 10 games decided on the field during that stretch. Both teams got off to a slow start last week. Armwood trailed 10-7 and Jefferson was behind 10-6 at the half. Jefferson comes in led by the most dynamic player in the county. Deiondre Porter, a USF commit, has thrown for 2,743 yards, run for 1,445 more and scored a combined 47 TDs. In the first meeting, Porter went 15-of-30 for 196 yards and one touchdown through the air and another 149 yards on the ground. But the Hawks were able to pressure Porter in the second half, neutralizing his skill set and leading to Armwood's second-half comeback. Porter's top targets are Chavez Pownell (33 catches for 727 yards and five TDs), Ventell Bryant (29, 627, 10) and Ohio commit Derrick Ingram (20,440, seven). The Dragons are better than in years past defensively, led by USF commit Juwuan Brown (12 sacks, 31 tackles for loss), Pownell (five INTs) and Ingram (four INTs).

East Bay (8-3) at Sickles (10-1)

Last week: East Bay beat Gaither 34-14; Sickles defeated Plant City 17-10.

Why you should go: It was a huge week for both schools last Friday as Sickles and East Bay won playoff games for the first time in school history. The teams didn't play each other during the regular season but have a number of common opponents. Both beat Plant City, Durant and Gaither while Sickles defeated Alonso and the Ravens bested the Indians. Ray Ray McCloud is the focal point of the Gryphons' offense, but far from the only weapon. McCloud followed up last year's 1,319-yard campaign with 2,115 yards and 23 TDs this season. Missouri commit Zach Hudson leads a powerful offensive line. Quarterback Issac Holder (1,564 yards, 16 TDs and two INTs) can also pull it down and run. His top two targets are Chett Levay (44 catches, 618 yards and six TDs) and Jaaron Barrett (36, 642, seven). Josh Black and Deven Santana lead the way defensively with 20 and 13.5 sacks, respectively.

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