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Gaither vs. Clearwater is a dream quarterback matchup

Tony Bartalo vs. Rent Montie pits two 2,000-yard passers against each other. And they’re not the only quarterbacks faring well in the playoffs this season.
Clearwater senior quarterback Rent Montie has thrown for 200-plus yards in five games this season. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
Clearwater senior quarterback Rent Montie has thrown for 200-plus yards in five games this season. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Nov. 14
Updated Nov. 14

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.

Related: RELATED: Gaither gets over the postseason hump

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.

Gaither quarterback Tony Bartalo has thrown 35 touchdowns, which is tied for the best in the state. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

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.

Related: RELATED: Clearwater executes perfect game plan in playoff opener

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.

Passing fancy

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's big night contributed to Tampa Bay Tech's upset of Viera in the first round of the playoffs. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

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)

Dual-threat Deuce

Lakewood quarterback Greg Spann II is equally adept at running and passing the ball. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

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.

Related: RELATED: Secret to Lakewood High’s success? A lights-out defense

Extra points

Lance Alderson hopes to enjoy a longer start in the playoffs this season. He was injured for most of last year’s region final run. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

• 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.

Related: MORE QBS: Isaiah Knowles a four-year stalwart for Seffner Christian

• 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 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


  1. Senior football players in Pinellas County took to the gridiron for their final prep game Wednesday night. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Of the past 15 meetings, the South has been on the losing end 13 times.
  2. In this file photo, Lakewood High School defensive lineman Tre'von Riggins (98) takes a moment during a spring football practice last April. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    Measures to prevent heatstroke deaths were among the key items in a bill that unanimously passed its first committee on Wednesday
  3. A little more than a month into the season, Nature Coast Tech sophomore Kennedy Weissman leads the state in scoring with 41 goals and 92 points, almost double the totals of the next closest player. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The sophomore has a whopping 41 goals so far this season, easily tops of any player in Florida.
  4. Largo's Julia Violante (6), center, gets a hug from teammate Sarai Faulkner (17), right, while joining Asti Luff (23), left, and McKenzie Emery (14) at midfield moments after scoring her second goal of the night (2-0) against St. Petersburg on Monday. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The University of Florida commit is having a banner season on the pitch, but is missing her biggest fan.
  5. Hezekiah B. Walters, 14, was a member of Men of Vision, a local non-profit for teens. He collapsed while participating in football conditioning drills at Middleton High School during the summer. [MEN OF VISION  |  Special to the Times]
    The death of Middleton High’s Hezekiah B. Walters during summer conditioning helps spark a bill that seeks better protection for players at practices and games.
  6. East Lake and rival St. Petersburg squared off Tuesday night, this time as non-district foes. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Eagles’ 67-30 victory over the Green Devils is their fourth straight in the series since late last season.
  7. Springstead guard Unique Torain makes a nifty assist during a victory at Nature Coast on Tuesday night. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Eagles are led by Unique Torain’s 18 points and unselfish play.
  8. Clearwater wide receiver Keedrik Murray (5) catches the ball for a touchdown during the first quarter at Gaither High on Nov. 15. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The 25th edition of the game will be held at Clearwater High.
  9. Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott talks with receivers Mike Williams (7) and Artavis Scott (3) during a 2016 game at FSU. Scott was named USF's coach Monday. [DAVID GROOMS/CAL SPORT MEDIA  |]
    Though not the bay area’s primary recruiter for Clemson, Scott’s fingerprints are all over the region.
  10. Tampa Catholic's Alijah Harrison attempts to block the ball from Andrew Jackson's Logan West during last year's state semifinals in Lakeland. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    Tampa Catholic holds on to the top spot after an impressive opening week.