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Second-round playoff football highlights from Tampa Bay

Sunday Morning Quarterback: Rematch revenge, prolific offensive outings, road warriors and more from the region semifinals.
Northside Christian did not have an answer for Seffner Christian receiver Michael Trigg, who burned the Mustangs for five touchdowns in the teams’ Class 2A, Region 3 semifinal. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
Northside Christian did not have an answer for Seffner Christian receiver Michael Trigg, who burned the Mustangs for five touchdowns in the teams’ Class 2A, Region 3 semifinal. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Nov. 17

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.

Related: RELATED: Knowles-to-Trigg connection works wonders for Seffner Christian

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.

Related: RELATED: Clearwater Central Catholic gets revenge in three-overtime thriller

Extra points

• 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.

Related: RELATED: Gaither pulls off the resounding late rally vs. Clearwater

• 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.

Related: RELATED: Steinbrenner never runs out of answers

• 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.

Related: RELATED: Armwood gets the edge in turnover-plagued matchup

• 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’s Troy Bowles, son of Tampa Bay Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, sacks Chamberlain quarterback Bruce Jackson. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

• 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).

Related: RELATED: Rematch result? Same as the first for Jesuit

• Make it seven shutouts in 11 games for undefeated Lakewood after a 35-0 Class 4A, Region 3 win over Clewiston.

Related: RELATED: Lakewood shows no rust in first playoff win this season

• 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.

Related: RELATED: Admiral Farragut knocks Cambridge Christian from playoffs again

Region finals

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

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    Though not the bay area’s primary recruiter for Clemson, Scott’s fingerprints are all over the region.
  7. 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.
  8. Tampa Bay Tech's Amiya Evans (30) drives the ball during the first half of the state championship game between Tampa Bay Tech and St. Thomas Aquinas last season in Lakeland. [Times]
    The big three stays the same, but Wesley Chapel moves up a slot in our latest rankings.
  9. Tampa Prep's Grace Langston (50), left, works to disrupt a shot attempt by Wesley Chapel's Mia Nicholson (12) during the game on Friday. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The Wildcats lead early, then hang on to improve to 5-0 on the season.
  10. Cambridge Christian coach Bob Dare and wife Beth at the 2015 state championship in Orlando. [BOB DARE  |  Special to the Times]
    The longtime Lancers coach, who led the program to the state title game in 2015, will no longer be a coach or teacher at the school.
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