What we learned
1. There's no quit in Land O'Lakes: After River Ridge took a 20-0 lead Friday night, Land O'Lakes could have collapsed. After all, the Gators' 14-year playoff streak is over. But Land O'Lakes rallied with 21 unanswered points to steal the victory and prevent the Royal Knights' first win over the school since 1996. Give credit to Ryan Bird (two TD passes), a strong offensive line and a great performance by two-way star Nico Watts.
2. Pasco's defense might be the best in the county: The Pirates shut out a quick Zephyrhills offense that scored more than 40 points the week before. Malik Johns had a pair of impressive pass breakups and returned a fumble for a score. John Baxter, Nick Wilson, Aryn Strickland and others contained Bulldogs QB Jamal Roberts to minus-30 rushing yards. He had been one of the county's leading rushers.
3. Bishop McLaughlin's turnaround is complete: The Hurricanes lost their first five games by an average of 30 points. They could have given up under first-year coach Derrick Alexander. But McLaughlin has rallied since its sluggish start, winning four consecutive games, including Friday's 28-7 win over Merritt Island Christian, to get into the Sunshine State Athletic Conference playoffs for the second year in a row.
Land O'Lakes 21, River Ridge 20
The Gators rallied from a 20-point first-half deficit to squeak by River Ridge on Friday night.
"The kids, they were absolutely amazing," Land O'Lakes coach Brian Wachtel said. "We kept fighting throughout the entire game."
River Ridge (5-4, 3-4) scored three touchdowns early and contained Land O'Lakes' offense. But the Gators (6-3, 5-2) battled back. The offensive line blocked well for quarterback Ryan Bird, who threw two touchdown passes and got a key catch-and-run by fullback Vinny Trott.
The defense buckled down, and Will Fairchild blocked a punt, scooped it up and scored.
"We started swarming to the ball more," Wachtel said.
The Gators took the lead for good on a fourth-down 14-yard pass from Bird to Nico Watts in the fourth quarter. The comeback victory ensured that Land O'Lakes finishes above .500.
"It's Land O'Lakes Gator football tradition," Wachtel said. "No matter what the situation is you're in, you keep fighting and find a way to get it done. That's exactly what we did (Friday) night."
Compiled by Times staff writer Matt Baker and Times correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere.
RBs Eli Galvan and Jamel Nunez, Wiregrass Ranch: Each Bull rushed for a touchdown in the third quarter to tie the game in Wiregrass' 19-13 overtime loss to Freedom.
LB Richard Hart, Nature Coast: The senior caught a touchdown pass and added a fourth-quarter interception. He broke up a pass at the 1 early in the second half in a 34-3 win over Springstead.
RBs Tyrail Hawkins and Marqui Redding, Hernando: Hawkins ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns, and Redding rushed for 165 and two scores, accounting for the majority of Hernando's 411 yards of total offense (all rushing) in a 41-14 win over Mitchell. Hawkins now has 1,208 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing this season with Redding chipping in 778 and 11 scores.
DB Malik Johns, Pasco: His 53-yard fumble return for a touchdown was one of the biggest highlights of a great team defensive performance against Zephyrhills. But don't overlook his three pass breakups, including two in a row in the fourth quarter.
FB Hayden Moyer, Hudson: The Cobras' top player all season had a good showing against Anclote. He averaged almost 5 yards per carry, rushed for 82 yards and scored a touchdown in a 41-10 loss.
QB R.J. Perciavalle, Bishop McLaughlin: Threw three of his four touchdowns in the second half as the Hurricanes scored 22 unanswered points in a 28-7 win over Merritt Island Christian that sealed a trip to the playoffs.
RB Alonzo Pettiford, Anclote: The senior had six carries for 164 yards and three touchdowns against Hudson, and helped push his team to a fourth straight victory.
RB Kyrie Rodriguez, Fivay: The senior rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries in a 48-8 victory over Ridgewood that clinched the Falcons' first trip to the playoffs.
QB Ty Tanner, Wesley Chapel: He finished 14-for-21 passing for 224 yards. He was a part of all five Wildcats touchdowns (three passing, two throwing) in a 35-7 win over Gulf.
DB/WR Nico Watts, Land O'Lakes: The two-way senior star had a key interception and scored the winning touchdown on a fourth-down catch in the fourth quarter of the Gators' 21-20 win over River Ridge.
District 6A-6: Hernando is the district champion and will host the playoff opener against Gainesville, the District 6A-5 runnerup. Sunlake is the 6A-6 runnerup and will face Ocala Vanguard, which clinched the District 6A-5 title.
District 5A-6: Pasco finished the season unbeaten to claim the district title. The Pirates are off this week but will host Santa Fe, the District 5A-5 runnerup, in the first round. Fivay also advances to the playoffs after finishing second in the district. It opens the postseason at perennial power North Marion, the District 5A-5 champion.
"The old Bulldogs would have been 70 to nothing on that board."
Reggie Roberts, Zephyrhills coach, after his team's 45-0 loss to Pasco. The defeat knocked the Bulldogs out of the playoff hunt, but they've still won more games this season (five) than the last two years combined (four)