Because Crystal River had beaten Lecanto 15 straight seasons, often by hefty margins, Pirates coach Jere DeFoor couldn't help but worry just a little about his squad being over-confident.
Those concerns were laid to rest early.
With three quick touchdowns in the first quarter, Crystal River opened up a sizable lead and the outcome was never in doubt. The 49-8 final combined with South Sumter's 42-24 win over Hernando gives the Pirates their eighth playoff berth in 10 seasons.
The victory also allowed Crystal River (6-3, 3-1 in Class 3A, District 8) to clinch the outright Gulf Coast Conference title.
"The kids came after it in the first half tonight," DeFoor said.
Crystal River's first score came on its sixth play, a 34-yard run by quarterback Chris Bunch. Less than two minutes later Chianta Smith had a 40-yard scoring run. Then, after forcing a Lecanto (1-8, 0-4) turnover, the Pirates went ahead 21-0 on Scott Guastella's rush from the 5.
"We played hard, but were definitely outmanned," Lecanto coach Dick Slack said.
Crystal River led 35-2 at the half and added two third-quarter touchdowns. The Pirates rested many of their starters in the fourth quarter but still amassed impressive numbers: 428 rushing yards, 18 first downs and no punts.
Smith finished with 148 yards and two scores on seven carries. Cleveland had 68 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Matt Pepito booted seven extra points and scored on a 36-yard run.
"The kids are coming along," DeFoor said. "Dunnellon took it to us (in week 2), but we've gotten better."
Lecanto's score came from Duane Sanders, who rushed for 99 yards. The Panthers had 236 total yards, but failed to convert on numerous third and fourth downs.
"Since the Hernando game (two weeks ago) we've gotten better," Slack said. "But it's hard to see against Crystal River, because (the Pirates) are so strong in every aspect."