Five things we learned
1. Armwood's defense is back. A week after Jefferson scored 48 on the Hawks, Armwood's defense dominated on the night the school honored its 2003 state championship team. The Hawks were disciplined against Springstead's run-heavy offense and held the Eagles to six plays that covered more than 4 yards. Armwood's 41-0 shutout was its fourth of the season and first playoff shutout since a 35-0 win over Hillsborough in 2007.
2. Plant has a bunch of offensive tricks up its sleeve. We've always known the Panthers can do a lot offensively, but they showed even more in a 17-7 win over Fort Pierce Central on Friday. They moved starting QB Colby Brown out wide in the second half and put Alexander Jackson under center. Jackson has played all over the field this season and has several big touchdowns. "You say you want the ball in your best player's hands," coach Robert Weiner said. "At the end of the day, if someone's got to take on their best player versus our guy, I want Buddha to be a part of that."
3. Jake Hudson can deliver. The East Lake junior took over as starting quarterback this season under enormous pressure. Not only was he replacing Pete DiNovo, the county's all-time career passing leader, but he is the coach's son. On a team filled with playmakers, Hudson has not had to carry the team on his own. But he showed he can lead with his arm Friday, completing 14 of 16 passes for 195 yards and a season-best five touchdowns in a 49-15 win over Port Charlotte.
4. CCC's defense still is dominant. It was unlikely for the Marauders to repeat last season: a school-record seven shutouts. On Friday, though, Clearwater Central Catholic's defense showed it is as stifling as ever, keeping Miami Westminster's high-powered offense in check in a 7-0 victory in the Class 3A state semifinals. The Warriors came in averaging 40 points and 467 yards. Against the Marauders, Westminster punted seven times — they had punted 11 times all season before Friday — and had just 183 yards of offense.
5. Indian Rocks Christian has a bright future. The Golden Eagles' top three running backs (Damian King, Zeke McGaughy, Theo Anderson) all return. So does QB Garrett Ross-Johnson and all but two starting offensive linemen. This is a team that made the state semifinals, so expectations will be high. "I promise we're going to be back next year; IRC is not going away," coach Mark Buchanan said.
RB Theo Anderson, Indian Rocks Christian: Trailing Hialeah Champagnat 20-7 in the fourth quarter, Anderson took a screen pass 38 yards for a touchdown. But IRC was unable to get the onside kick and Champagnat won 28-14.
RB Patrick Brooks, Plant: He had two touchdowns in a 17-7 win against Fort Pierce Central, one receiving and one rushing. The junior, who rushed for 137 yards, has nine touchdowns this season and has rushed for 841 yards in eight games.
WR George Campbell, East Lake: The five-star receiver caught three touchdown passes in a 49-15 win over Port Charlotte, nearly equaling his total for the season (four) entering the game.
WR Jocqui Ellison, Lakewood: Ellison caught five passes, including a 67-yard touchdown in the third quarter of a 27-21 win over South Sumter. He also threw a two-point conversion pass, ran back a punt 35 yards and had a fourth-quarter punt of 41 yards that pinned South Sumter on its own 12 with a minute left.
RB/S T.J. Harrell, Tampa Catholic: Harrell had a fourth-down sack among his six tackles against Trinity Christian. He also finished with 59 rushing yards on the other side of the ball.
QB Isaac Holder, Sickles: He had a breakout first half, going 8-for-11 passing with two touchdowns, and finished with 144 yards in a 19-14 loss to Kissimmee Osceola.
WR Trevor Laurent, Armwood: He had 122 receiving yards on only four catches. Three of those grabs came on the Hawks' opening 97-yard drive that set the tone for another region title.
QB Tyler Mahla, Springstead: He had all of the Eagles' first downs in the loss to Armwood. His 17-yard rush early in the fourth quarter was Springstead's biggest gain of the night.
RB Diquan Walker, Clearwater Central Catholic: Walker's biggest carry was a 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of a 7-0 victory against Miami Westminster. Before that carry, Walker had rushed 12 times for 25 yards.
Springstead RB/DB Daniel Wright has a concussion. Coach Mike Garofano said a CAT scan showed there is no bleeding in Wright's brain, and he is expected to recover within a few days.
East Lake senior DB Noah Vazquez was taken to the hospital with an apparent neck injury. Coach Bob Hudson said the injury involved a disc, and he will be re-evaluated Monday.
Class 8A, Apopka (12-1) at Plant (11-1-1): Apopka has scored 679 points this season, an average of 52 a game. But Plant's defense comes in playoff-tested. The Panthers held Fort Pierce Central to just 196 yards though the Cobras came in averaging 376.
Class 7A, West Palm Beach Dwyer (13-0) at East Lake (13-0): Dwyer knocked off defending state champion Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. The Panthers' best defensive player is DL Mark Kelly, who can be a disruptive force.
Class 6A, Bartram Trail (8-5) at Armwood (13-0): A rematch of the 2011 state semifinal, a 34-24 Hawks victory. The Bears have won eight in a row after an 0-5 start, kicking a field goal with 4:59 left to beat Choctawhatchee 17-14. Armwood will have to tame Bartram Trail's offense, which averages 35 points per game behind 2,000-yard passer P.J. Blazejowski and 6-foot-5, 290-pound OL Jesse Burkett, a Vanderbilt commitment.
Class 5A, Lakewood (10-3) at Green Cove Springs Clay (9-4): Clay beat Jacksonville Bishop Kenny 74-73 in the second round, then beat Pensacola Catholic 9-7 on Friday. Clay runs the ball, with five backs who have more than 400 yards rushing. Before this season, Lakewood had never made the third round of the playoffs.
Class 3A, Clearwater Central Catholic (11-2) vs. Jacksonville Trinity Christian (11-1): This is CCC's first appearance in a state championship game. The Marauders have a strong run defense that continues to make big plays. Trinity Christian has plenty of star power, with CB Kevin Toliver II and LB Jeffery Holland, both ranked among the top eight in the nation on ESPN's 2015 junior 300 list.