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Clearwater executes perfect game plan in playoff opener

Everything clicks for the Tornadoes against Dixie Hollins, especially the offense.

ST. PETERSBURG — Clearwater came into Friday’s Class 6A region quarterfinal grooving on a five-game winning streak.

After a 35-6 victory over Dixie Hollins, the Tornadoes look cooler than ever, playing smoothly in every way, starting on Friday with a nifty fake punt to begin the scoring.

On Dixie Hollins’ 44-yard line with under two minutes left in the first quarter, Clearwater (9-2) lined up to punt, but saw a flaw in the defensive setup by the Rebels (8-3). Clearwater snapped the ball to the up-back D, Demetrius Garland Jr., who threw a quick pass to Cardrece Mobley, who raced in for the touchdown.

From there the Tornadoes scored pretty much every few minutes, on a 41-yard run by Latrez Bradley, a 3-yard run by Bradley, a 5-yard pass from quarterback Rent Montie to Keedrik Murray and a 3-yard run by Marcus Jeter.

That made the score 35-0 early in the third quarter and the mercy-rule clock started running.

“We did what we wanted to do,” Clearwater coach Don Mesick said. “We played hard and executed well.”

Clearwater senior Keedrik Murray makes a spectacular one-handed 35-yard reception in the first half against Dixie Hollins. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

But Mesick was quick to add some perspective: “Now we have to get focused on next week because that is going to be a big challenge (in a second-round game at Gaither). We can enjoy this weekend, but come Monday it’s all about getting ready (for Gaither).”

Mesick has been here before, guiding his team to the playoffs each of the past five years but gaining a playoff victory only once three years ago. This year, perhaps more than ever, there is plenty of reason for optimism.

"This team plays together so well and they are disciplined (only four penalties for 25 yards on Friday),” Mesick said. “We have played a tough schedule and I think we’re ready (for more playoff games).”

Defensively, Clearwater was stout on Friday, allowing Dixie to seriously threaten only once when the Rebels got down to the Tornadoes’ 6-yard line before Clearwater stopped Dixie on downs.

Dixie, in fact, scored only in the second half on a blocked field goal, which led to a 60-yard scoop and score by Dezuan Davis.

Offensively, Clearwater featured a wide variety of talent and highlight reel material, including a one-handed, 35-yard leaping catch by Murray at the Dixie 3-yard line.

Region football semifinals

All games 7:30 p.m. next Friday.

Class 2A, Region 3

• No. 3 Seffner Christian at No. 2 Northside Christian

• No. 4 Admiral Farragut at No. 1 Cambridge Christian

Class 3A, Region 3

• No. 5 Clearwater Central Catholic at No. 1 Berkeley Prep

Class 4A, Region 3

• No. 4 Clewiston at No. 1 Lakewood

• No. 3 Tampa Catholic at No. 2 Delray Beach American Heritage

Class 5A, Region 3

• No. 8 Chamberlain at No. 4 Jesuit

Class 5A, Region 2

• No. 4 Nature Coast at No. 1 Orlando Jones

Class 6A, Region 2

• No. 5 Clearwater at No. 1 Gaither

• No. 3 Lake Minneola at No. 2 Largo

Class 7A, Region 3

• No. 3 Manatee at No. 2 Mitchell

Class 7A, Region 2

• No. 5 Bloomingdale at No. 1 Armwood

• No. 6 Tampa Bay Tech at No. 2 Lakeland

Class 8A, Region 2

• No. 4 Steinbrenner at No. 1 Sarasota Riverview