Tarpon Springs coach Don Davis, whose team lost to Lakewood and Lake Gibson this year, has advice for the Spartans when they head to Lakeland on Friday to meet the Braves in the second round of the playoffs:
"That is a very, very good football team," Davis said Monday.
Three days earlier, the Braves scored on a series of long plays to erase a 14-0 deficit and beat Davis' Spongers 31-14 in the first round.
"I was very impressed with them. Lakewood will have to play a pretty good game to beat them."
The Braves have a double-threat quarterback in Alex Dukes and a lightning-fast running back in Roderick McNeal. Both players combined for all the touchdowns against Tarpon Springs.
Running the offense out of the shotgun, Dukes can run the option, take off on a draw play or throw with accuracy.
Lakewood relies on a fast defense, though, and has the kind of speed and athletes that can prevent big plays, a staple of the Braves all season.
Davis, though, thinks the best way to stop Dukes is to keep the ball away from him, which means consistency on offense. When the Spongers were able to keep the ball for more than three or four plays, they were able to dominate the game. Only when they had to throw _ and Lakewood likes to throw _ was Lake Gibson able to turn the tide.
"What we did against Lake Gibson, I don't know if Lakewood can," Davis said. "Lakewood and us have two different offenses. They run a lot of double slots and rely on the quarterback (Pat Carter). I don't know if they can control the ball (like that)."
Davis said he has already passed on any tips he can to Lakewood coach Brian Bruch. As the only coach who played against both teams this season, he hopes he can provide some valuable insight.
If the Braves call, though . . .
"I wouldn't divulge anything to Lake Gibson," Davis said. "I want them to get beat. I want Lakewood to win."
CARTER'S STREAK ENDS: Lakewood's Carter was on a roll heading into the Class 3A playoffs. Carter went six games and 132 attempts without throwing an interception before throwing three in a 21-20 win against Tampa Bay Tech. Carter still has an impressive ratio of 18 touchdowns to seven interceptions.
BE PREPARED, NORTHEAST: The Vikings have faced the likes of Osceola's Jason Teague and East Lake's Mike Wynn, but they probably haven't seen a running back like Naples' Duane Coleman. Northeast will meet Coleman face-to-face Friday in the regional semifinals and will have to be at its best to stop him.
Coleman, a senior, gained more than 1,800 yards in the regular season despite playing in only eight games. He gained 356 yards and scored five touchdowns against Gibbs in last week's regional quarterfinal. That was the third-highest rushing total of any back in the state this season.
_ Times staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.