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Hillsborough’s defense is on point, but offense can’t capitalize

The Terriers, who have been stellar in the second half of the season, force turnovers but don’t turn them into points.

TAMPA — After two early losses this year against Tampa Bay Tech and Steinbrenner, Hillsborough worked hard to turn things around with a six-game winning streak that included four shutouts to end the regular season.

The momentum of those regular-season successes for the Terriers did not, however, carry into Friday’s playoff opener as Port Charlotte (10-1) defeated Hillsborough (8-3) 21-6 in a Class 6A, Region 3 quarterfinal.

Port Charlotte broke the 0-0 tie on a second-quarter touchdown run by Ja’Nyrein Washington. The Pirates drew Hillsborough offsides on a fourth-down play and took a 7-0 lead. Hillsborough had plenty of chances as the defense recovered four fumbles, of which only one resulted in their lone touchdown.

“Our defense played a heck of a second half but we didn’t get it done offensively,” coach Earl Garcia said. “We just couldn’t capitalize offensively.”

Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, a fumble recovered by Jaiden Headen set up Hillsborough’s score. Terriers quarterback Caleb Pierce tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Herman James, but Port Charlotte blocked the extra point to maintain a 7-6 lead.

The Pirates then came back with their own touchdown, a 13-play, 80-yard drive capped by Bo Guy’s 10-yard run. The game was still within reach for Hillsborough in the third quarter when the Terriers recovered a fumble at the Pirates’ 37-yard line, but Hillsborough punted after three downs.

On the next drive, the Pirates extended their lead when quarterback Logan Rogers found Solomon Luther for a 44-yard touchdown pass.

The Terriers, held to their lowest point total of the season, drove to Port Charlotte’s 47-yard line late in the fourth quarter. The Pirates batted Pierce’s pass incomplete to end the drive and preserve the lead.

"You can't go out in the state playoffs and get shut out in the second half," Garcia said. "They took our inside running game from us and they controlled the line of scrimmage."

With its seventh straight win, Port Charlotte advances to a semifinal against district foe Palmetto, which beat Braden River Friday, 24-21.

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