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PHU JUST HANGS ON

Fourth-quarter kick sails wide and the Hurricanes escape with win.

At the end of a very long night, those purple clouds and periodic flashes of lightning in the distance didn't deter Palm Harbor University.

It was Pinellas Park's spirit - and not the neighboring storms - PHU was forced to weather.

In a game delayed 66 minutes by those lightning streaks, the Hurricanes withstood an eleventh-hour Patriots drive Friday for a 7-6 triumph, giving Mark Haye his initial win as coach.

It wasn't clinched until Justin Cupo's 27-yard field-goal try sailed wide left - it may have been deflected - with 1:21 to play. The Patriots had a third and goal at the PHU 3, but a delay of game penalty - one of several in the contest - forced Patriots coach Kenny Crawford to try a kick.

"They're tough kids, they played hard, they wanted it," said Crawford, whose team was seeking its first 2-0 start in six years.

"It came down to some things that were on us (coaches), not them. They put it on, they put the (last) drive on. We got the delay of game, we weren't ready to kick the field goal as coaches, and it's on us."

Pinellas Park moved the ball more effectively in the first half, totaling all of its 122 yards on the ground and moving into 'Canes territory three times. But penalties and protection breakdowns stalled the first two possessions.

The Patriots finally got on the board when Cody Nowakowski ran in from 7 yards with 4:14 to play before halftime. A delay penalty, and botched snap, quashed the PAT.

PHU, playing without senior quarterback Ja'Tyuan Landing (ankle) for the second consecutive game, responded with an 11-play drive to start the second half. Sophomore Billy Pavlock's 29-yard completion to Kenny Blanch on third and 28 preserved it.

Pavlock's 12-yard TD toss to Blanch capped it. Patrick McDonald's PAT would be the decisive point. Pavlock finished with 189 total yards, 114 on the ground.

"I think it was a run play and we checked to a ... post over the middle and he was open," Pavlock said.

The Patriots, clearly outsized up front, failed to move past the 50 on their first three possessions of the second half, managing only two first downs in that span. But junior Jessie Hevia engineered the final drive, running three times for 18 yards and going 3-for-4 for 23.

"That was scary to me," Haye said. "I was kind of surprised to see them come out and start taking it to us in the last four minutes of the game. I pride myself on conditioning our team, being in better shape. For them to come out (with that drive), I was very impressed with that."

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