Friday's region quarterfinals
All games at 7:30
Nature Coast (7-3) at Citra North Marion (9-1): The Sharks have waited the better part of two years to return to the playoffs. Tonight, they get their shot under first-year coach Mark Lee. No one will soon forget the road to this point — last year's postseason disqualification, the resignation of Jamie Joyner, the hiring of Lee, two regular-season losses, a huge win over Hernando followed by an even bigger win over Hernando in a three-way tiebreaker. Nature Coast has looked stronger since a 27-23 loss on homecoming to Dunnellon, but a 19-7 loss last week to East Lake left some doubt. The Sharks are playing in the program's third playoff game and this is the second meeting with North Marion. The Colts defeated Nature Coast 34-14 in 2007. The Sharks hope to secure the program's first playoff victory tonight, but will likely need their best performance of the season.
Winner will play: Dunnellon-Ocala Vanguard winner
Lakewood (8-2) at Pasco (9-1): The Pirates return to the playoffs after last year's run to the Class 3A state semifinals, where they fell to Tallahassee Godby. Focus has shifted to this year's matchup with Lakewood. Asked how Lakewood looks, Pirates coach Tom McHugh said, "like Godby but with a faster quarterback." The Spartans believe they can contain Pasco's big-play ability after facing teams such as Countryside, Jefferson, St. Petersburg and Spoto. Pasco will have to contain running back Bernard Reedy, who has compiled 1,032 yards and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Jermiel Douse has 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns. Pasco and Lakewood played in a Class 4A playoff game in 1994, which the Pirates won 37-7.
Winner will play: Land O'Lakes-Jefferson winner
Land O'Lakes (9-1) at Jefferson (9-1): Land O'Lakes coach Matt Kitchie has done some comparisons between Jefferson and the Gators. He has broken down strength of schedule (combined wins-losses of opponents), key players' statistics and how many points each team has scored and allowed. In many areas, the teams appear to be carbon copies right down to similar team colors — blue and gold. Kitchie said the Gators have had a good week of practice and that they are relatively healthy. Land O'Lakes' 21-6 win over Hudson helped the Gators discover a running game and Ryan Lane, who rushed for 126 yards mostly in place of Tyler Peak. Peak, dealing with a knee injury much of the season, sat out the past two weeks of practice and might be in the best shape of the season. The Gators will have their hands full with Dragons quarterback Quentin Williams (2,666 yards, 31 touchdowns, six interceptions) and receiver Andre Davis (1,017 yards, 17 touchdowns).
Winner will play: Lakewood-Pasco winner
Hudson (5-5) at Gainesville (9-1): Hudson, without question, is one of the area's smartest and best-coached teams. But can the heady Cobras keep up with the athletically gifted Purple Hurricanes? Gainesville has its most talented team since a group led by current NFL running back Clinton Portis went deep into the playoffs in the late 1990s. The Gainesville defense, led by defensive back Devont'a Davis and linebacker Kevin Nelson, allows only 13.7 points per game. Both players are Miami Hurricane commits. Offensively, the 'Canes are led by talented quarterback Ryan McGriff, who is capable of putting up monster numbers. In a district-clinching win over Lake Weir, he was 21-of-40 for 445 yards and six touchdowns. Hudson counters with Zack Wynn, who has passed for more than 2,000 yards. Because it will be outmanned physically, Hudson will have to play the perfect game to survive. That means winning the turnover battle, capitalizing in the red zone and putting together time-consuming drives.
Winner will play: Lake Weir-Tarpon Springs winner
Compiled by staff writers Izzy Gould and Keith Niebuhr.