The region semifinals didn’t disappoint locally. Here are the teams and players who stood out:
Player of the Week: Michael Trigg, Seffner Christian
The 6-foot-5 junior had a big week. Not only did he pick up offers from Alabama, LSU, Pittsburgh and Iowa State, he was also nearly unstoppable in Friday night’s 49-21 win over Northside Christian. Trigg caught five touchdowns — which was every offensive touchdown the Crusaders scored. They also had two interceptions returned for scores.
Trigg had touchdown catches of 12, 58, 33, 12 and 13 yards. Three of them came in the first half as Seffner Christian built up a 35-7 lead. This was the Crusaders’ eighth straight win, all since quarterback Isaiah Knowles came back from injury. Since then the Knowles-to-Trigg combination has been potent. Trigg now has 15 receiving touchdowns. He also has five rushing touchdowns.
“It definitely helps having him as a target,” Knowles said prior to the game. “It makes things easier on me.”
Trigg now has over 90 catches in 11 games and nearly 1,000 yards receiving. Next up is Admiral Farragut, which clearly needs to make stopping Trigg a top priority.
Coach of the Week: Jeris McIntyre, Tampa Catholic
During the regular season, Tampa Catholic logged plenty of miles on road games. The Crusaders traveled to four counties, including lengthy trips to Naples and Fort Myers. Those bus rides did not always result in victories. Tampa Catholic went 2-4 in regular-season away games. Still, McIntyre knew his team would benefit. There were obstacles to overcome, adjustments to be made by taking so many trips.
The payoff came when it mattered most: the playoffs.
The Crusaders went across the state, to Delray Beach, for their Class 4A region semifinal against American Heritage. Already accustomed to these excursions, Tampa Catholic returned home victorious.
Antoine Hill ran for two touchdowns. Dylan McClain was effective throwing the ball. And the defense greeted opposing ball carriers with a wall of pads. By winning 33-16, the Crusaders advanced to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
McIntyre, who played at Tampa Catholic from 1995-98, has made steady progress since taking over at his alma mater last season. In 2018, the Crusaders made it to the region semifinals. This year, they have taken the next step by advancing one more round in the postseason.
“A lot of what we’ve been able to do in the playoffs was set up by the schedule,” McIntyre said. “I wanted to play quality teams, some on the road, so we were used to being challenged and faced some adverse situations once we got to the playoffs.”
On Friday, Tampa Catholic will again be on the road, this time facing undefeated and top seed Lakewood.
“It’ll be a tough game against a great team,” McIntyre said. “We’ll be ready.”
Team of the Week: Clearwater Central Catholic
The sheen of dominance Clearwater Central Catholic acquired in the regular season for more than two years was replaced by vacant stares. In the season opener, the Marauders were stunned by a loss to Berkeley Prep. Gone was Clearwater Central Catholic’s 23-game regular-season win streak, the longest by any area program during that span. A couple of other things were wiped away, too, namely a state ranking and five-game series streak over a rival.
There were more setbacks for the Marauders, who lost three regular-season games, the most for the program since 2010. That ultimately cost Clearwater Central Catholic a chance at any home games during the postseason.
But after starting 4-3, the Marauders won four straight, including a victory over then-Class 4A, No. 1 ranked Fort Lauderdale University and a 49-28 rout over Calvary Christian in last week’s Class 3A, Region 3 quarterfinals. That set up a rematch with the Buccaneers in the semifinals.
The game was filled with wild momentum swings. Regulation was not enough to decide it. Neither was one overtime. Nor two.
In the third overtime, CCC found wherewithal to pull ahead for good. Johnny Newton, used more as a defensive lineman throughout the season, made his biggest impact on offense. The Maryland commit scored all three of the Marauders’ touchdowns in overtime, the last on a 5-yard burst up the middle for the winner.
The thrilling 34-28 victory not only exacted revenge but put the Marauders in the region final for the seventh time in eight years. Clearwater Central Catholic will travel to play Fort Myers Bishop Verot on Friday.
• With four touchdown passes against Clearwater, including the game winner in the final two minutes, Gaither’s Tony Bartalo now leads the state with 39, four more than anyone else.
• Steinbrenner had already won its first district title and first playoff game. On Friday, the Warriors continued their season of superlatives by advancing to the region final for the first time. They did it in impressive fashion, knocking off top-seeded Sarasota Riverview on the road, 27-24.
• Armwood’s De’Kwan Hughes returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown in the victory over Bloomingdale, marking the third straight game the Hawks have scored on defense.
• Props to Tampa Bay Tech, which gave defending Class 7A state champion Lakeland all it could handle before falling 37-30. The undefeated Dreadnaughts had won each of their previous 11 games by 27 or more points.
• Jesuit freshman cornerback Troy Bowles — son of Tampa Bay Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles — got his first interception in the Class 5A, Region 3 semifinal against Chamberlain. That makes six Tigers who have picks. Jesuit’s defense has 27 turnovers (13 interceptions, 14 fumbles).
• Make it seven shutouts in 11 games for undefeated Lakewood after a 35-0 Class 4A, Region 3 win over Clewiston.
• Admiral Farragut is in the region final for the second straight season. Friday’s game against Seffner Christian is a rematch of last year’s Class 2A region final that the Blue Jackets won 20-7.
All games 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Class 2A, Region 3
• No. 4 Admiral Farragut at No. 3 Seffner Christian
Class 3A, Region 3
• No. 5 Clearwater Central Catholic at No. 2 Fort Myers Bishop Verot
Class 4A, Region 3
• No. 3 Tampa Catholic at No. 1 Lakewood
Class 5A, Region 3
• No. 4 Jesuit at No. 2 Lake Wales
Class 6A, Region 2
• No. 3 Lake Minneola at No. 1 Gaither
Class 7A, Region 2
• No. 2 Lakeland at No. 1 Armwood
Class 8A, Region 2
• No. 4 Steinbrenner at No. 3 Kissimmee Osceola