Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. HomeTeam

State semifinals unkind to Tampa Bay football teams

One thing is certain: South Florida remains a hurdle for teams all over the state to clear.
Lakewood's Artez Hooker (8) consoles Cornelius Mckenzie (10) after the Spartans fall 9-7 in the Class 4A state semifinals to Miami Booker T. Washington. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
Lakewood's Artez Hooker (8) consoles Cornelius Mckenzie (10) after the Spartans fall 9-7 in the Class 4A state semifinals to Miami Booker T. Washington. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Dec. 1, 2019

Tampa Bay had a share of the spotlight in the state semifinals. Seven high school football teams made it this far in the playoffs, tying 2013 for most locals in a season.

The sheer volume was equal to other football hotbeds such as Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville and Miami. Area teams were represented in just about every class. Public and private schools. Large and small student enrollments.

On Friday, they played everywhere in the state. Gaither traveled to Pensacola. Steinbrenner went to Apopka. Clearwater Central Catholic, Jesuit and Seffner Christian headed to either Hollywood, Miami or Hialeah.

Two others, Armwood and Lakewood, served as hosts.

The matchups were tough. The circumstances difficult. All but one of the opponents had won at least one state title. And there were long bus trips, including one that ventured into another time zone and required an overnight stay.

This was the chance for the area to make its mark on the state level and move on to title games.

But as the final seconds ticked away in each of those semifinal contests, the outcomes were frustratingly familiar.

All seven area teams lost.

This marks the first time in seven seasons that no local program will move on to a state championship game.

There were several factors that led to so many defeats Friday. Bad bounces. Tough calls. And huge momentum swings.

Maybe jitters played a role. Gaither, Seffner Christian and Steinbrenner, all of which had magical runs, were playing in the semifinals for the first time — and traveling lengthy distances to face hostile crowds.

Sometimes an opponent, or area, is just better.

South Florida has seven teams playing for state titles the next two weeks — Miami Columbus (Class 8A), Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (7A), Miami Central (6A), Miami Northwestern (5A), Miami Booker T. Washington (4A), Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna (3A) and Hialeah Champagnat (2A).

Four Tampa Bay teams — Clearwater Central Catholic, Jesuit, Lakewood and Seffner Christian — lost to teams in that area.

The Marauders and Tigers have been through this before. This was the third straight season CCC has lost to Chaminade in the state semifinals. Jesuit has come up short in the semifinals four of the past five seasons. Three of those losses came against different teams in Fort Lauderdale or Miami, all of them on the road.

Lakewood had the closest outcome of all, losing 9-7 to the always powerful Tornadoes.

“I have to give our guys credit, they played their butts off,” Lakewood coach Cory Moore said. “They had a great season.”

Can there be breakthrough next season? That could be tough. Gaither and Steinbrenner will be hit hard by graduation.

But the junior class could be one of the most talented in the state, led by a trio of receivers — Armwood’s Agiye Hall, Plant City’s Mario Williams and Seffner Christian’s Michael Trigg.

Once again, the obstacles will come once locals reach this round and end up likely squaring off against teams from Fort Lauderdale and Miami again.

“I told the kids that next year, it will be the same thing again and we’re just going to have to figure out how to get past these teams from South Florida,” Jesuit coach Matt Thompson said after Friday’s loss.

Bob Putnam can be reached at bputnam@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Junior Jayla Murray and defending state champion Tampa Bay Tech continue to get battle tested as playoffs loom. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The final week of the regular season finds little change at the top.
  2. Former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers is on the opening-day 52-man roster for the XFL's Tampa Bay Vipers. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Plant High’s Aaron Murray and Wharton High’s Chase Litton join USF’s career total yardage leader in the quarterback room.
  3. Tampa Catholic's Kobe Knox dunks for two  of his 12 points in a 68-64 victory over Berkeley Prep on Friday night. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Crusaders don’t lead until the fourth quarter, but edge the Bucs 68-64.
  4. With seniors like Parker Conitz, pictured at left here with fellow Clearwater Shootout Player of the Game Joshua Celiscar of Winter Haven and Clearwater High coach Kris Foote, Seminole believes it can claim another district banner for the gym. [CUCK FRYE  |  Special to the Times]
    Classification and district realignment make the Warhawks’ path to a title not as daunting.
  5. Fivay girls basketball players, from left: Marielis Creque, Jania Jones and Savannah Shaffer. [RODNEY PAGE   |  Times]
    The Falcons are a postseason threat and there’s not a senior to be found on the roster.
  6. Junior Talon Bergantino is among Central's leading scorers this season. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    After taking their lumps vs. their older siblings, Talon and Caden Bergantino have emerged as fierce competitors for the Bears.
  7. Karim Nohra pulls no punches in getting his Carrollwood Day team ready for another playoff push. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Patriot girls notch another lopsided basketball victory with a senior-dominated team.
  8. Kobe Knox, center, and Tampa Catholic regain the top spot in the rankings thanks to recent wins over Leesburg, Naples and Seffner Christian. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    Tampa Catholic takes over the top spot again after an impressive showing last week.
  9. Tampa Prep's Arianna Mosley (10), center, challenges the Wesley Chapel defense during a December game. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    Little change at the top as the regular season winds down.
  10. Flag football players from left to right: Steinbrenner's Jacqueline Figueredo, Robinson's Emily Kemp, Leto's Anaily Mendoza, along with Martha Minahan at Monday night's (Jan. 20, 2020) sixth annual Bill Minahan scholarship awards dinner. [ERNEST HOOPER  |  Special to the Times]
    Chamberlain’s James Ash, Wharton’s Edwouens Marcelin, Steinbrenner’s Jacqueline Figueredo and Robinson’s Emily Kemp are also honored at the sixth annual awards banquet.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement