PORT ST. LUCIE— Palm Harbor University took advantage of two key St. Lucie West Centennial mistakes and 111 penalty yards to win a tight Class 8A region matchup 20-17 Friday at South County Regional Stadium in Port St. Lucie.
Centennial piled up 17 first downs and 235 passing yards behind senior quarterback Tim Caffey, but it was not enough to top the upstart Hurricanes, who advance to face host East Lake in the next round.
The Hurricanes offense, led by quarterback Billy Pavlock, lost 18 yards on a high snap on the first play from scrimmage. Fortunately, they were already ahead 6-0 first on a 52-yard punt return by Pavlock for a touchdown.
"Their defensive line was really good," PHU coach Matt Lepain said. "I mean they came out and they were raw, and that will make you mess up. We had to start throwing the ball outside and running outside cause we couldn't get inside at all."
Centennial's best opportunity for a first-half touchdown ended with a Jon Poma fumble at the goal line. Pavlock recovered the ball for Palm Harbor U.
"That was a 14-point swing between the punt return and the fumble at the goal line," Centennial coach Ron Parker said.
According to Parker, his Centennial team had one big break down in the second half and that led to a 20-yard catch by Christian Lorenzo from Pavlock on the Hurricanes' opening drive of the second half.
The Hurricanes took advantage of another Eagles mistake when Hunter Beam intercepted Caffey's pass at midfield and returned it for a touchdown to stretch the lead to 20-3.
"My biggest thing with my kids is we have a very hard time finishing," Lepain said after Palm Harbor University's first playoff win in its history. "You saw it at the end. I keep telling them don't go for the ball or the strip, just make the tackle. That's what I really harped on. We took advantage of their mistakes and we were fortunate in the end."