Friday, December 15, 2017
Sports

State semifinal matchups: Know the foes of Plant, Jesuit

State semifinals

Games 7:30 p.m. Friday. Admission is $9.

Class 7A

Who: Jacksonville Lee (10-1) at Plant (12-0)

Next up: Venice-Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas winner in the state final.

Know the foe: The Generals are in the state semifinals for the first time since 1996. O.J. Small, who played for Florida from 2001-04, took over as coach at Lee in 2012 and has led the program to two straight playoff appearances. Since losing the season opener to Jacksonville Raines, the Generals have won 10 straight, nine of those wins coming by 21 points or more. The closest game during their win streak was last week's wild 61-59 victory over Bartram Trail in the region final. Lee quarterback Derrick Jones threw for 463 yards, ran for another 199 and accounted for nine touchdowns against Bartram Trail.

Key stat: Lee is averaging 43 points per game. Plant is allowing 10 per game and shut out four opponents in the regular season.

Key matchup: Jones vs. Plant's linebackers. The Generals quarterback has thrown for 2,092 yards and rushed for 962 this season. He has 20 touchdowns each rushing and throwing. And he keeps getting better. The junior has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the past three games and his 463 yards passing last week was a career high. The Panthers will rely on their linebackers to keep Jones in check. That unit is led by Indiana recruit Thomas Allen (123 tackles), Micah McFadden (97 tackles, 12 sacks) and Davis Bak (116 tackles).

Audible: "(The Generals) are extremely athletic, very fast. I think they have good size for fast guys. Sometimes the fast guys are the smaller guys, but they have some long guys. They are very rangy, and their quarterback is spectacular. He's got a lot of weapons around them. We have our hands full athletically. But we've played some athletic teams this season." — Plant coach Robert Weiner

Predictions

Rodney Page: Plant, 24-21

Bob Putnam: Plant, 35-21

Class 5A

Who: Jesuit (12-0) at Plantation American Heritage (12-0)

Next up: Ponte Vedra-Green Cove Springs Clay winner in the state final.

Know the foe: Patrick Surtain, a former Pro Bowl defensive back with the Miami Dolphins, took over as coach this season. He replaced Mike Rumph, who left to become an assistant with the Miami Hurricanes. Under Surtain, the Patriots have remained one of the best teams in the nation. American Heritage is ranked third overall in the state and 11th nationally by Max Preps. There have been some impressive victories over powerhouses such as Colquitt County (Ga.), Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) and Miami Northwestern in the regular season, as well as a win over defending Class 5A state champion Orlando Bishop Moore in last week's region final.

Key stat: American Heritage is used to playing in tight games against tough competition, beating Colquitt County and Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons each by three points and Northwestern by two. Jesuit has won every game this season by 21 points or more. How the Tigers will respond in a close game could be key.

Key matchup: Jesuit's Malik Davis vs. American Heritage's defense. Davis, a Florida recruit who is Hillsborough County's all-time leading career rusher, had 195 yards and two touchdowns in last week's win over Immokalee. He now has 6,885 yards in his career, which ranks 12th in state history. Davis' ability to move the chains is needed for the Tigers to consume time on long drives and stay out of third-and-long situations. American Heritage has one of the best defenses in the state, allowing just 120 points and holding six teams to seven points or fewer this season. Patriots defensive lineman Andrew Chatfield, a three-star recruit, has 18 sacks and could pose problems if the Tigers are forced to abandon their vaunted running game.

Audible: "This game is huge for us because it's the game before state. We have been to this round before, last year, and we know what it feels like to go home after this round. But this is a new year, and we aren't afraid of all the hype that American Heritage is getting. It's just another team in our way So we have to go through them to get to where we want to be. We just have to focus on the little things and do our jobs." — Jesuit athlete Travell Harris

Predictions

Rodney Page: American Heritage, 28-21

Bob Putnam: Jesuit, 17-13

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