Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sunday morning quarterback: Plant, Jesuit remain in the hunt

Jesuit and Plant are the lone bay area survivors after three rounds of the playoffs. Perhaps it is fitting these teams are left considering their similarities. Both are undefeated. Both are close in proximity (less than 5 miles apart). Both have balanced offenses and stifling defenses.

But to last another week — and play in the state finals — both have to get past formidable opponents in the state semifinals.

The Tigers (12-0) have the more difficult task. They travel to Plantation to face American Heritage. The Patriots won state titles in 2013 and '14 and are ranked 11th in the nation by MaxPreps.

The Panthers (12-0) get another home game. They face Jacksonville Lee, which rallied to beat Bartram Trail 61-59 in one of the wildest playoff games this season. Plant's defense will have to key on Lee quarterback Derrick Jones, who threw for 467 yards, ran for another 157 and accounted for eight touchdowns and a two-point conversion.

Game balls

RB Malik Davis, Jesuit: The Florida commit rushed for 193 yards and two touchdowns in one half to help the Tigers build a commanding lead en route to a 56-29 win over Immokalee.

QB Davis Koetter, Berkeley Prep: The senior, who is the son of Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, scored Berkeley's lone touchdown on a 10-yard run in a 41-9 loss to three-time defending state champion Jacksonville Trinity Christian.

WR Bryce Miller, East Lake: He did not reach the end zone, but he did rack up the yards, finishing with more than 100 in a 43-14 loss to Venice.

RB Ty Thompson, Plant: An afterthought in the ground game most of the season, Thompson turned in his best performance when it mattered most, rushing for 176 yards and scoring two touchdowns in the Panthers' 35-7 win over Viera.

TE Dylan Spaeth, River Ridge: He was the main target in the passing game and finished with six catches for 98 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown reception that gave the Royal Knights an early lead in a 39-17 loss to Green Cove Springs Clay.

K Caleb Yawn, Northside Christian: In a defensive slugfest, Yawn accounted for the Mustangs' only points, hitting a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter in a 14-3 loss to Hialeah Champagnat.

Super seniors

River Ridge's senior class had the most memorable run in school history. The Royal Knights have won three straight district titles. But they did more than just make the playoffs. They advanced to the region semifinals twice and the region final once during that span.

It is an impressive feat considering River Ridge had never won a playoff game until 2014. The seniors were sophomores when this run began. Many made significant contributions back then, including defensive back Jake Berg, quarterback Trevor Hawks and receiver Alex Kostogiannes.

All played vital roles in keeping the postseason streak intact this season and helping the Royal Knights advance further in the playoffs than ever.

Impressive run

Before 2011, East Lake had won only two playoff games.

Since then, the Eagles have won 12 and advanced to the region final five of the past six seasons. It is the greatest six-year run ever by a Pinellas County public school.

This year's region final appearance was not expected. The Eagles were coming off a 6-5 record last season and did not have a massive amount of elite Division I-A talent like they had in the past. But East Lake went 7-1 in the regular season and beat two strong Hillsborough County teams, Durant and Tampa Bay Tech, in the first two rounds.

The region final matchup against Venice was tough. The Indians got off to a strong start and cruised to a 43-14 win.

Atypical game ends Northside Christian's season

The numbers were not pretty for Northside Christian in its 14-3 Class 2A semifinal loss to Hialeah Champagnat Catholic on Friday:

19/192 Penalties and yards, most of which came in a sloppy fourth quarter.

4 Turnovers, three fumbles and an interception. One of the fumbles was eventually turned into a touchdown, and one killed a fourth-quarter drive inside the 30-yard line.

"You guys had an unbelievable run. I could not have asked for a better group of guys."

— Coach Mike Alstott

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