Round 2 of high school football playoffs typically brings rematches from the regular season — and sometimes the previous year’s postseason — and this week is no different. Are the underdogs wiser and armed with a winning game plan this time around?
8A: Orlando Dr. Phillips (11-0) at Plant (9-1-1)
Last time: Nov. 23, 2012 — Dr. Phillips 24, Plant 7. Dr. Phillips held Plant, the defending 8A champion, to a season-low 124 yards in the second-round loss — the Panthers’ earliest exit since 2005. Running back Wesley Bullock entered the game with more than 1,400 yards, but had only 39 in the road loss, scoring Plant’s only points on a 91-yard kickoff return.
This time: The Panthers offense has rolled this season, putting up at least 300 yards of offense in eight of its 11 games. Dr. Phillips’ defense allows fewer than 10 points per game, on average.
Flipping the script: Dr. Phillips all but shut down Plant’s offense last year, quite like Tampa Bay Tech did to the Panthers on Sept. 22, when their only score in a 14-7 loss followed a Titan fumble. Against Dr. Phillips last year, Plant quarterback Aaron Banks threw for 91 yards and completed just seven passes. Plant’s success could easily ride on current quarterback Colby Brown, who has thrown for 2,218 yards and 25 touchdowns. Plant will also need to contain running back Kerry Bernard, who rushed for 141 yards last week against Wharton, including a 70-yard dash.
X factor: Brown. Plant is a pass-heavy team, so Brown’s accuracy will be huge for the Panthers. The 6-foot-1 senior has completed 62 percent of his passes this season.
Redo or replay? Because both teams are led by high-scoring offenses, this game could easily come down to time of possession. Plant had five turnovers in its only loss this season, and Dr. Phillips gave Wharton opportunities to score last week on two turnovers of its own. Whichever team can hold on to the ball and sustain long drives will have a solid chance to advance.
Underdog says: “We looked at film from last year and realized a lot of the things we thought we had were good plays and good things, but when we physically matched up, when we were trying to get a helmet on a helmet sometimes, their helmet beat ours.” — Plant coach Robert Weiner
7A: Pinellas Park (10-1) at East Lake (11-0)
Last time: Oct. 25 — East Lake 42, Pinellas Park 12. The Eagles led by more than 35 in the fourth quarter, which meant the game ended with a running clock. Artavis Scott had 107 yards rushing and Weston Fordham had 111. East Lake’s defense also scored twice.
This time: The Patriots rolled over Sarasota last week and enter with some momentum. Pierre Johnson had 135 yards rushing on 13 carries, and Kal-El Williams added 105 yards on 14 carries. East Lake squeaked out a 13-12 first-round win over Palmetto thanks to a blocked extra point and a missed two-point conversion.
Flipping the script: The Patriots have to prevent East Lake’s defense and special teams from scoring. The Eagles thrive on big plays from both units, scoring a combined 19 touchdowns on returns off fumbles, interceptions or kicks. In the first meeting, East Lake’s Jake Hansen and Devin Abraham each had interception returns for scores, turning a manageable deficit into an insurmountable one. Pinellas Park is capable of sustaining long, time-consuming drives with its run-oriented attack. That will be needed to keep the Eagles’ high-powered offense off the field.
X factor: Johnson. He was not much of a factor in the first game. He enters this game on a roll, and if Pinellas Park’s wing-T offense is going to move, it needs Johnson to remain hot.
Redo or replay? East Lake got a bit of a wakeup call last week in its one-point win over Palmetto. Expect the Eagles to be extra focused for this rematch. Fordham, Scott and their big offensive line wear teams out on the ground, and George Campbell usually comes up big at receiver.
Underdog says: “We’ve got to eliminate the mistakes. We had two pick-sixes, we missed guys that we had wide open. When you give a team like East Lake those opportunities, they take advantage. Last time, they did a good job of staying ahead of us. This time, we’ve got to block better and do what we do. We have to take advantage of every opportunity we have.” — Pinellas Park coach Kenny Crawford
6A: Jefferson (10-1) at Armwood (11-0)
Last time: Sept. 27 — Armwood 28, Jefferson 9. The Dragons led Armwood 9-7 at halftime, but Armwood, which accrued nine penalties in the first half, came out swinging in the second half. Talvin Bailey had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and it was smooth sailing for the Hawks after that. Armwood’s win was its seventh against Jefferson in the regular season since 2004, having only lost one meeting because of a forfeit.
This time: The teams are a combined 13-0 since their first meeting, Armwood winning with a record-setting defense and the Dragons riding the talents of Deiondre Porter.
Flipping the script: Porter accounted for all but 31 of Jefferson’s yards last time, and it’s doubtful the Hawks are going to let one player beat them. The Dragons had some chances to make that 9-7 halftime lead bigger back in September and did not convert. This time, they will need to convert the big third downs and make the tough catches, something that stalled them previously. And they will need to adapt at halftime. Armwood did and smothered Porter the last two quarters.
X factor: Ventell Bryant and Derrick Ingram. In the first go-around, the Dragon wide receivers failed to hang on to balls in the end zone that guys of their talents should be catching, and since Armwood won’t allow much on the ground, they have to have glue on their hands Friday. In the Dragons’ three toughest games of the year — Hillsborough, Armwood and Largo — they combined for six catches. Coincidence?
Redo or replay? A kickoff return for a touchdown and two short fields to work with resulted in all three of the Hawks’ second-half touchdowns the first time around. If the Dragons can make Armwood work a little harder for its scores, the outcome could be different.
Underdog says: “Already playing them once and understanding some of the mistakes we made in the first game that kind of put us behind are very correctable, we feel good going into the matchup. We feel like our offense is comparable to their defense as far as putting up numbers.” — Jefferson coach Jeremy Earle
5A: Tarpon Springs (7-4) at Lakewood (8-3)
Last time: Oct. 25 — Lakewood 46, Tarpon Springs 21. The Spartans jumped on the Spongers early and never looked back. Donterio Fowler ran wild for 195 yards and three touchdowns. Tarpon’s Michael Ford managed 73 yards on 18 carries.
This time: The Spongers have not lost since the Lakewood game, averaging 54 points in three games. Lakewood has scored 126 points the past two weeks, including 75 in the region quarterfinal against Hudson.
Flipping the script: Tarpon Springs must slow down Lakewood early. In the last meeting, the game was 16-0 before the Spongers even had a chance to catch their breath. If they can frustrate the Spartans early, Lakewood may veer from its game plan into uncomfortable territory. Ford, meanwhile, must get going early. Most of the yards he racked up in the first game came late. The first quarter may be the most important if this game is going to be close in the fourth quarter.
X factor: Montel Johnson. He is the other big-play receiver/runner/returner for the Spongers. With seven receiving and four rushing touchdowns, Johnson has to make some plays so Lakewood doesn’t target Ford.
Redo or replay? If there is a rematch that has potential for an upset, it’s this one. The Spongers couldn’t have played much worse in their first game against Lakewood. The offense has figured things out and should have much more confidence.
Underdog says: “We have to play with confidence and contain the big play. If we can finish drives, force them to go on long drives and play great on special teams, we’ll be in the game. But to win, we can’t let them turn a 10-yard play into an 80-yard score.” — Tarpon Springs coach Ron Hawn
3A: St. Petersburg Catholic (8-3) at Clearwater Central Catholic (9-2)
Last time: Oct. 4 — CCC 35, SPC 14. The Marauders led 28-0 in the second quarter but let the Barons back into the game in the second half. It was 28-14 in the fourth quarter, and SPC had the ball on the CCC 4-yard line with two minutes to play. But the Barons fumbled, and on the next play, C.J. Cotman had a 99-yard touchdown run to make it 35-14. Five players scored for CCC. Tony Jones had a 24-yard TD run for the Barons.
This time: Both teams have lost just once since. SPC is averaging 46.6 points during its five-game win streak, and CCC hasn’t allowed a first-half touchdown in four weeks.
Flipping the script: SPC never established the running game against CCC the first time around, and with a poor passing game, has little chance to win if it can’t this time. Jones had 82 yards on 11 carries the first game, and needs twice the carries with the same effectiveness, and more of those behind Miami left tackle commitment Reilly Gibbons. If so, the Barons can control the ball and possibly frustrate the Marauders.
X factor: Jacquan Fuller. He is coming off a huge game (153 yards, four TDs), but was mauled by the Marauders last time (nine carries, season-low 15 yards). He needs to be a weapon.
Redo or replay? CCC played with little passion in easily dispatching the Barons last time, and yet the feeling was SPC almost pulled off the upset. We expect a different CCC team this time around, one that plays with the fire this rivalry deserves.
Underdog says: “The kids won’t admit it, but I think the first time around we didn’t enter that game with the confidence we needed. But in the second half we proved that we could play with them. I think they are much more confident now. The key for us is to make things happen right away. If we can do that, then who knows what will happen.’’ — SPC coach Steve Dudley
2A: Naples First Baptist (10-1) at Indian Rocks Christian (9-2)
Last time: Nov. 17, 2012 — First Baptist 42, IRC 21. The Golden Eagles took an early 14-8 lead in the first-round playoff game, but after halftime IRC was held to only one touchdown — a 9-yard run by Zeke McGaughy in the fourth quarter. First Baptist quarterback Jonah Bueltel ended the night with 220 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and running back Christopher Dorrill added two touchdowns of his own, one with less than seven minutes to play.
This time: Both teams rolled through the regular season. First Baptist is on a seven-game win streak and has outscored opponents a combined 378-97. The Lions lone loss came against Class 5A Immokalee, which is 9-2 and still alive in the playoffs. Indian Rocks has won eight straight, including five games in which it scored 48 points or more.
Flipping the script: IRC cannot let First Baptist run wild like it did in last year’s game. The Lions are balanced on the ground with 16 players having at least one carry this season. The two main ballcarriers are Christian Rodriguez (994 yards) and Dylan Cibelli (645), who have combined for 23 touchdowns. The Golden Eagles defense has played well this season, allowing 10 points per game. And they’ve shored up their run defense. Against St. Petersburg Catholic earlier this season, IRC held 1,000-yard rushers Fuller and fewer to less than 100 yards each. .
X factor: Damian King. IRC’s most versatile playmaker has 1,644 all-purpose yards (719 rushing, 530 receiving, 395 returns). He also is the team’s leading scorer with 20 touchdowns. His ability to create the big play will be needed against a First Baptist defense that has allowed just 97 points this season.
Redo or replay? IRC played teams in higher classifications such as 3A Admiral Farragut, SPC and Miami Westminster (preseason) to prepare for a potential rematch against First Baptist. The task will be daunting considering 39 of the 97 points the Lions gave up this season came against 5A Immokalee.
Underdog says: "We're better up front on both sides of the line. That's been our strength this year. First Baptist has a big line, too. They're a solid running team and come right at you with a lot of off tackle stuff. We have to keep that in check." — IRC coach Mark Buchanan