There are 13 games involving area high school football teams in the region semifinals. But there is only one matchup where the primary focus is on the quarterbacks: Clearwater vs. Gaither.
Two teams where the quarterbacks do not just wheel around and hand the ball off. They drop back. They throw the ball frequently. They rack up lots of yards — and touchdowns.
Rent Montie vs. Tony Bartalo.
Each has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and at least 24 touchdowns. Both are seniors. Both have set nearly every career and single-season record at their respective schools. This is their last postseason run. Their last shot at a title.
Montie vs. Bartalo.
They know each other through camps and offseason 7-on-7 tournaments. But not well enough to talk on a consistent basis. Twice, the two met in a 7-on-7 league. Their teams split those meetings, each high-scoring affairs.
Now, here they go again.
“It’s two high-powered offenses who are evenly matched,” Montie said.
Montie, a second-year starter, has led Clearwater to the playoffs each of the past two seasons. He has plenty of talented targets, including Keedrik Murray, a senior who has 984 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns. Together, they have helped the Tornadoes go 9-2 and advance to the region semifinals for just the fourth time in school history.
Montie needs just 56 yards passing to eclipse 5,000 yards for his career.
Bartalo is in his third varsity season at Gaither. He has plenty of options in the passing game, too. It shows. His 35 touchdown passes are tied for the state lead. The Cowboys’ 10-1 record is also the best in school history.
Montie, a Lafayette commit, already knows where he will play next season. Bartalo still is deciding.
Two quarterbacks. Two prolific passers.
Only one can move on.
Clearwater’s Montie and Gaither’s Bartalo are the area’s top passers, at least in yards. Here is how they measure up.
Bartalo: 2,314 yards (160-of-258, 35 TDs, 9 INTs)
Montie: 2,219 yards (156-271, 24 TDs, 8 INTs)
No opening night jitters
Top performances by quarterbacks from the first round of playoffs whose teams are still alive:
David Wright, Tampa Bay Tech 293 yards (5 TDs, 0 INTs)
Tony Bartalo, Gaither 259 yards (3 TDs, 3 INTs)
Ezra Brennan, Mitchell 188 yards (2 TDs, 0 INTs)
Haden Carlson, Steinbrenner 175 yards (2 TDs, 0 INTs)
Rent Montie, Clearwater 138 yards (1 TDs, 0 INTs)
In elite company
Tampa Bay Tech’s David Wright had the unenviable task of replacing Michael Penix Jr. (now at Indiana) at quarterback. After taking some lumps as a sophomore last season, Wright is now putting up numbers that rival his predecessor.
2017 Michael Penix Jr.: 2,165 yards (30 TDs, 5 INTs)
2019 David Wright: 2,118 yards (25 TDs, 5 INTs)
Greg “Deuce” Spann II could end up with an impressive feat depending on how far undefeated and No. 1 seed Lakewood advances in the Class 4A, Region 3 bracket.
The senior, considered one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the area, has the chance to finish with more than 1,000 yards passing — and rushing.
During the regular season, Spann tallied with 1,477 yards passing and 756 rushing. He had three games in which he ran for more than 100, all against teams that made the playoffs (Boca Ciega, Braden River and Sebring). The Spartans host Clewiston (6-5) tonight.
• Last year, Bloomingdale quarterback Lance Alderson missed nearly all of the playoffs with a shoulder injury. The senior now has the Bulls in the region semifinals for a second straight season. Alderson has thrown for 1,323 yards and 16 touchdowns.
• Cambridge Christian coach Bob Dare does not just have one quarterback. He has three — senior Mikal Willeke, junior Titan Williamson and freshman Chris Stephenson. Because the Lancers had the No. 1 seed in their region and chose to have their bye on the final week of the regular season, they had three weeks to figure out their quarterback by committee approach before playing their first playoff game against Admiral Farragut. Williamson took the majority of the snaps in the regular-season win over the Blue Jackets and threw for 194 yards and a touchdown.
• Thanks to an effective ground game, Berkeley Prep quarterback Gavin Rupp does not have to put the ball in the air much. When the junior does throw, he takes care of the football. Rupp has thrown just two interceptions — both against Clearwater Central Catholic in the season opener. The Buccaneers (8-1) still won that game, 21-14. They host the Marauders in the semifinals.
Contact Bob Putnam at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BobbyHometeam.
High school football region semifinals
All games 7:30 p.m. 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