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High school football teams head to region finals, state semifinals

Hillsborough’s Lilrobert Wilson (10) is overwhelmed by Armwood’s Eric Striker (19), Jabari Hayes (40) and Warren Williams (36) during last Friday’s game. Armwood won and heads 12-0 into the Class 6A region finals against Gainesville. 

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Hillsborough’s Lilrobert Wilson (10) is overwhelmed by Armwood’s Eric Striker (19), Jabari Hayes (40) and Warren Williams (36) during last Friday’s game. Armwood won and heads 12-0 into the Class 6A region finals against Gainesville. 

SEFFNER

The Armwood defense doesn't quite have a split personality.

It's more like an inner demon that occasionally assumes control of the typically stalwart unit.

The Hawks D has turned in six shutouts — including last week's 23-0 victory in a playoff rematch against Hillsborough — and a midseason streak of 27 quarters in which the unit didn't allow a point.

It features talented defensive linemen Sheldon Lewinson (Wake Forest) and Allen Covington, gifted linebacker Eric Striker (Oklahoma) and a secondary led by standout junior safety Leon McQuay III.

But despite all that talent, Armwood gave up 17 points against Las Vegas Bishop Gorman in its season opener and had to hang on for dear life to pull out the win.

That streak of scoreless quarters? It got snapped in a regular-season battle against Hillsborough in which the Terriers blitzed the team for 16 points in the final period.

And two weeks ago, the Hawks offense bailed out the unit after Lakewood Ranch scored 28 second-half points and briefly took the lead late in the fourth quarter.

So when the Hawks host Gainesville High in a Class 6A region final tonight, fans may wonder who will show up — the stout Armwood defense that can grind an offense to a halt, or the schizophrenic unit that suffers the occasional lapse.

All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

CLASS 8A, REGION 2 FINAL

Plant (11-1) at East Lake (9-3)

LAST WEEK: Plant defeated Orlando Dr. Phillips 49-13; East Lake defeated Palm Harbor University 33-26.

THE SKINNY: Plant's playoff march travels to Tarpon Springs to face an East Lake team making its deepest postseason trip in school history. The Eagles are led by RB Tyler Lane, who galloped for 226 yards and four touchdowns in East Lake's thrilling 33-26 win against PHU. The effort was Lane's seventh straight 100-plus-yard game. The good news for the Eagles is that they reached the region finals. The not-so-good news is that Plant coach Robert Weiner has only lost once in five region final appearances, the last time in 2007. Those numbers may improve with the play of Plant QB James Few, who has tossed 10 touchdown passes in the Panthers' two 2011 playoff wins.

CLASS 7A, REGION 2 FINAL

Gaither (9-3) at Lakeland (12-0)

LAST WEEK: Gaither defeated Tampa Bay tech 17-14; Lakeland defeated Kissimmee Osceola 20-7.

THE SKINNY: Gaither's wild 17-14 playoff victory against Tampa Bay Tech made amends for its loss to the Titans by the same score during the regular season. Gaither QB Alex McGough likely will be looking for more big plays from WR Carlo Perello, who led the Cowboys with 26 receptions during the regular season. Still, Gaither coach Jason Stokes will need more rushing (just 14 yards last week) and fewer miscues (two lost fumbles and an interception). Lakeland, meanwhile, is in the midst of a typical run for the powerhouse program that owns six state championships, but none since 2006. The Dreadnaughts have a dynamic QB-WR tandem in Raheem Dumas (1 TD rushing, 1 passing last week) and Ricquan Southward (who switched his college commitment from Miami to Ohio State this week). The last time Gaither visited Lakeland's Bryant Stadium for a playoff game? A 37-0 Lakeland romp in the second round of the 2006 playoffs.

CLASS 6A, REGION 2 FINAL

Gainesville (10-2) at Armwood (12-0)

LAST WEEK: Gainesville beat Sunlake 21-14 and the Hawks defeated Hillsborough 23-0.

THE SKINNY: The Hurricanes defense came up big last week, led by defensive back Cordero Dixon's two big plays. Dixon returned a fumble 49 yards for a score and took an interception back 51 yards for another TD. Gainesville's offense struggled against Sunlake, but showed in the region quarterfinal it was capable of big plays. With Gainesville trailing 14-13 on its own 9-yard line with 90 seconds to play, quarterback Mark Cato led the Hurricanes on a furious drive. He capped it off on a 33-yard TD pass to Chris Bivins with 40 seconds to play. Gainesville is ranked No. 10 in 6A.

CLASS 5A, REGION 2 FINAL

Jesuit (11-1) at Pasco (12-0)

LAST WEEK: The Tigers defeated Robinson 35-20 and Pasco beat North Marion 31-28.

THE SKINNY: Pasco comes in undefeated while the Tigers haven't lost since Week 1 against Plant. The Pirates will throw a balanced offense at Jesuit and are led on the ground by tailback David Emmanuel, who has rushed for 1,188 yards and 18 scores on the season. Quarterback Jacob Guy has completed 67 percent of his passes and has an impressive 35 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Both Trey Dudley-Giles and Janarion Grant have more than 700 yards receiving. The Pirates erased an early 14-point deficit against North Marion and got a 21-yard Brandon Ray field goal as time expired to advance to tonight's game.

CLASS 3A, STATE SEMIFINALS

Berkeley Prep (12-0) at Delray Beach American Heritage (10-1)

LAST WEEK: Berkeley Prep defeated Fort Meade 21-0; American Heritage defeated Fort Lauderdale University 31-20.

THE SKINNY: Berkeley Prep has been untouchable this season, blasting opponents by an average of almost 30 points per game. Now that Nelson Agholor (211 yards rushing, two touchdowns) and the Bucs have vanquished an 0-3 recent record against Fort Mead with last week's 21-0 victory, they may finally have a challenge. In its first state semifinal game, the Buccaneers are facing an American Heritage squad that was the state runner-up in 1A last season. And just like Berkeley, the Stallions can score (38 points per game) and play defense (five shutouts this season). American Heritage has a standout RB in Greg Bryant, who ran for 175 yards and two scores and returned an interception for a score in the big win against nationally ranked University. Berkeley will rely on standout LB Schyler Miles and the defense to keep this one close. The winner advances to the Class 3A state championship game on Dec. 10.

Times correspondents Rod Gipson and Brandon Wright contributed to this report.

High school football teams head to region finals, state semifinals 12/01/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 1, 2011 3:30am]

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