3 final thoughts on Sunlake's season
1. The Seahawks' playoff run was one of the best stories in the Tampa Bay area. The young program had a 98-yard, fourth-quarter drive to win at Ocala Vanguard in the opener and then had a chance to tie Gainesville late. It has been a quick rise from 1-19 to being one score from a region final.
2. QB Cameron Stoltz was one of the season's breakout players. He entered the year as a question mark, the first-year starter trying to replace Jacob Jackson. Stoltz was just as good as his predecessor. He threw for 26 touchdowns and showed poise in the clutch all season.
3. Expect Sunlake to become a Pasco County power. Coach Bill Browning has built the program for sustained success, with a commitment to the weight room, a tough offensive line and a stingy defense. Sunlake loses an impressive senior class, but Browning's strategy will lead to new stars in 2012.
"This is going to hurt tonight. But we just made too many mistakes." — Bill Browning, Sunlake coach, after two of Gainesville's three TDs came off of turnovers in the Seahawks' 21-14 loss
"Eighth-and-a-half-grader, make it." — Tom McHugh, Pasco coach, to freshman kicker Brandon Ray before his 21-yard field goal beat Citra North Marion 31-28
By the numbers
13 wins in Sunlake's first four seasons
10 wins for Sunlake this season
30 Total touchdowns by Sunlake's star QB Jacob Jackson last fall
29 TDs by Seahawks QB Cameron Stoltz this fall
3 First downs allowed by Pasco in the second half against Citra North Marion
15.6 Average yards per touch by Pasco's Janarion Grant against the Colts
0 Number of home playoff losses by Citra North Marion before Friday
3 final thoughts on Pasco-North Marion
1. Janarion Grant was the best player on the field. The junior athlete had more than 200 total yards in the 31-28 win. He sped for a 67-yard touchdown in the first quarter to keep Pasco in the game and ripped off a 54-yard rush at the end of the half to set up a field goal. "I do things unexpectedly," Grant said. After a two-score playoff game in the playoff opener, no one should doubt Grant. On a field with at least seven Division-I prospects, Grant was the most impressive.
2. Pasco is a legitimate state title contender. Forget the easy regular-season schedule. The Pirates have shown they can win close playoff games after two victories by a combined 10 points. Pasco did it with special teams Friday with a winning field goal by freshman Brandon Ray and with an offense that struggled early but came through late. Handing powerhouse Citra North Marion its first home playoff loss should silence any remaining critics.
3. Don't overlook Pasco's defense. North Marion's offense was electric early, scoring 21 points in the first quarter but only seven after that. The Colts had 12 first downs in the first half but only three in the final two quarters. When Pasco needed a stop, the Pirates forced a three-and-out to get their offense the ball with 3:59 left and a chance to win the game.
Jesuit (11-1) at Pasco (12-0)
The Pirates can advance to their first state semifinal since 2008 with a win over Tommy Eveld and the Tigers. It's a rematch of the 1992 state title game.
WR Eddie Burgos, Sunlake: The junior speedster caught a tipped pass for a touchdown against Gainesville. It echoed his deflected catch for a score against Land O'Lakes. He will be a key part of the Seahawks again next fall.
ATH Janarion Grant, Pasco: Another night, another 200-yard game. Grant had 219 total yards (167 rushing, 52 receiving), a highlight-reel 67-yard TD rush and a two-point conversion.
K Brandon Ray, Pasco: His 21-yard field goal as time expired gave the Pirates a 31-28 victory at Citra North Marion. Ray also booted a 22-yarder at the end of the first half and a 46-yard kick. Not bad for a freshman.
Sunlake's defense: The Seahawks held Gainesville to only one offensive score in a 21-14 loss to the Hurricanes. Sunlake's defense never allowed more than 21 points in a game all season.