CLASS 4A STATE SEMIFINAL
Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer (12-1) at Armwood (13-0)
Where: Lyle Flagg Field, Armwood High, 12000 U.S. 92
When: Tonight, 7:30
At Stake: A berth in the Dec. 18 Class 4A State Championship at Orlando's Florida Citrus Bowl.
Coaches: Dwyer – Jack Daniels, 140-36 (15th year); Armwood – Sean Callahan, 181-70 (21st year).
Key Players: Dwyer - QB Jacoby Brissett, TE/DE Nick O'Leary, DE Curt Maggitt. Armwood - QB Josh Grady, RB Matt Jones, G Cody Waldrop, LB Eric Striker, S Jermaine McKinney.
Playoff history: Dwyer – 24-10 in 12 postseason appearances, two state championship appearances, won state title in 2009; Armwood – 32-10 in 14 postseason appearances, three state championship game appearances, won state titles in 2003 and 2004.
Quick Count: Armwood and Dwyer meet again in the state semifinals after the Panthers soundly defeated visiting Armwood 45-15 last season. Armwood has home-field advantage this time around, where the Hawks haven't lost a playoff game since 2002. And no Hawk has played better than Grady, a dual threat who seems to up his performance every week. Dwyer will counter with Brissett, who has thrown for 2,185 yards and 26 TDs for the year. Armwood will look to pressure Brissett, especially after recording eight sacks against Charlotte last week. The Panthers, coming from warmer South Florida, also may catch a break with the forecast. Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker said to expect clear skies with a light wind and a kickoff temperature in the 50s, but don't expect the frigid weather we had this week. Perhaps the biggest key for Armwood will be getting off to a good start. The Hawks fell behind 21-0 last year to the Panthers and even though they eventually pulled it to within 6, were never able to recover.
Brandon Wright, Times correspondent
Tampa Bay Tech 38-6
East Bay 49-12
Glenville (OH) 22-26
PB Gardens 35-0
Delray Beach 41-15
PB Lakes 62-6
Park Vista 52-7
Royal Palm Beach 45-0
West Boca Raton 49-7
Hollywood Hills 43-0
Palm Bay 24-7
Other playoff games in Hillsborough
Kickoff is today at 7:30 p.m. for all games
CLASS 3A STATE SEMIFINAL
St. Augustine (13-0) at Jefferson (13-0)
Last week: St. Augustine defeated Pensacola 7-3; Jefferson beat Ocala Vanguard 49-27.
Last year: St. Augustine lost to Pensacola 9-0 in the 3A region finals; Jefferson lost to Pensacola 20-0 in the 3A state semifinals.
The skinny: How's this for dominance? After his 327 yards passing in the win against Vanguard, Jefferson QB Quentin Williams broke ex-Gator Tim Tebow's high school career mark for passing yards. He owns the county's career passing yards and touchdowns marks. He also owns the state career touchdown record and tied the county season TD pass record last week with his 51st of the season. Williams and the Dragons again will rely on wideouts Chris Moore and Andre Davis, running back Demetrious Russell and a stout defense led by linebacker Ramik Wilson. St. Augustine will try to slow down the Dragons with its own solid defense. St. Augustine allowed an average of 7 points per game and posted four shutouts during the season — but none since mid-October.
The edge: The Dragons do not have to worry about a bus ride to Pensacola for the state semis this year. Instead they can focus on a St. Augustine defense that has not been as strong in the playoffs — 46 points allowed in three games, but only 3 last week. Still, Jefferson's potent offense — despite a brief first-half hiccup last week that led to a 21-20 deficit — will be more than enough. After all, it scored 29 unanswered points in the second half last week. Look for the Dragons to advance to next Friday's Class 3A state championship game at Orlando's Florida Citrus Bowl.
CLASS 5A STATE SEMIFINAL
Lakeland (13-0) at Plant (11-2)
Last week: Lakeland beat Fleming Island 29-19; Plant defeated Countryside 21-13.
Last Year: Plant beat Lakeland 20-0 in the 5A state semifinals.
The skinny: A rematch after Plant went to Lakeland last season and shut out the Dreadnaughts, ending their season with their programs' first-ever shutout loss in the postseason. With Plant QB Phillip Ely nursing back spasms (he left the Countryside game in the first quarter), backup Nick Sanders could see significant playing time. Meanwhile, expect running back James Wilder Jr. to again lead the Plant offense. Trailing last week, Wilder ran for 163 yards and scored two of his three touchdowns in the second half to lead the Panthers to their comeback win. He even blocked a Countryside touchdown extra point attempt.
The edge: Call Lakeland a powerhouse lite this season. The Dreadnaughts are rock solid, but not quite as dominant defensively as in past seasons. Lakeland only held opponents to 13 points or less three times this season. But Lakeland doesn't have to shut teams out because it still has an offense capable of moving the ball (40-point scoring average in the playoffs). But this likely will be a lower-scoring affair with possibly the last team touching the ball winning. With the home field, advantage Plant.
Rod Gipson, Times correspondent