EAST LAKE — Any questions about East Lake's potential vulnerability were quieted quickly Friday night.
The host Eagles followed up last week's 13-12 nail biter against Palmetto with a 45-0 Class 7A region semifinal browbeating of Pinellas Park. It marks East Lake's third-straight trip to the region finals, where the Eagles will host Port Charlotte.
“We came into the game wanting to play them as if we've never played them before,” said Eagles running back Weston Fordham of the rematch game won by East Lake on Oct. 25, 42-12. “A team that you've beaten that bad the first time, they have something to prove.”
Instead it was East Lake (12-0) that looked like the team out to make a statement. The Eagles needed all of 1 minute 37 seconds to get on the board Friday, going up 7-0 on Artavis Scott's 19-yard reception tossed perfectly by Jake Hudson.
“Straight go route,” the Clemson commit said of the play. “Coach called it and I just took advantage of it. As soon as I was off the line I twisted (the cornerback) up.”
The score was the first of two on the night for Scott as East Lake raced out to a huge 31-0 halftime lead. Jumping the Patriots early was a point of emphasis.
“That's what we told them,” Coach Bob Hudson said. “We felt like we needed to get on them early and they responded and did a good job.”
Shortly after Daniel LaCamera pounded a 51-yard field goal through the uprights, East Lake essentially slammed the door on Pinellas Park's season with over 9 minutes still left in the second quarter.
The Patriots (10-2) threatened to cut into East Lake's 10-0 lead but were faced with a fourth-and-goal from the 11. Quarterback Angel Addison hit Oscee Calhoun over the middle for an apparent touchdown, but star safety Devin Abraham met and stuck him at the half-yard line.
“All I know is it was a blown coverage and then I just saw him coming across the middle and I had to stop him from getting into the end zone,” the Abraham said.
Nearly seeing its lead sliced to 10-7, East Lake instead increased it to 17-0 by capping a demoralizing six-play, 99-yard drive with Scott's second touchdown of the night, a 27-yard run around the left end.
The goal line stuff was the first of multiple big plays turned in by the USF commit. Abraham put East Lake up 24-0 in the second with a 53-yard fumble recovery, converted a third-and-long situation with a 31-yard run and found the end zone again in the third after blocking a punt and returning it seven yards.
East Lake scored 24 points off of its four forced turnovers – two fumbles and two interceptions. The Eagles got picks from Blake Duckworth and Dylan Renaker and Justin Strnad jumped on the other fumble.
When Pinellas Park wasn't getting gashed by Scott or hounded by Abraham, it had Fordham to deal with. The senior celebrated his birthday by rumbling for 135 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries.
“So solid,” Hudson said of Fordham. “He's a grinder. He's got good moves, great balance and just enough burst to break 15-20 yards off like that. Then we put Scott in for just a little bit of a different punch.”
Scott gained 69 yards and the score on four carries to go along with his 19-yard touchdown reception.
Friday was the second time in as many meetings that East Lake contained Pinellas Park's Wing-T rushing attack. The Patriots' foursome of Pierre Johnson (seven carries for 57 yards), Calhoun (eight for 55), Kal-el Williams (eight for 21) and Donte Moxson (four for 44) led an attack that totaled just 194 yards on 40 attempts.
Johnson again proved to be Pinellas Park's most dynamic offensive weapon, adding three receptions for 63 yards.
The Patriots mostly one-dimensional attack did manage to pick up 319 total yards of offense, but that's also because it almost always had the ball. Pinellas Park ran 50 plays compared to East Lake's 29.
Now the Eagles are hoping the third time's a charm when it comes to region finals appearances. Their opponent, Port Charlotte (10-1), advanced by blanking Melbourne (9-3), 35-0.
A win next week would stamp East Lake's first ticket to the state semifinals in program history. An overtime loss to Plant in 2011 and last year's road defeat to Orlando Dr. Phillips ended the Eagles' past two postseason runs.
EL - 10 – 21 – 14 – 0 --- 45
EL – Scott 19-yard pass from Hudson. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 1st Quarter (10:23)
EL – LaCamera 51-yard FG. – 1st Quarter (5:10)
EL – Scott 27-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 2nd Quarter (9:28)
EL – Abraham 53-yard fumble recovery. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 2nd Quarter (7:32)
EL – Fordham 27-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 2nd Quarter (0:59)
EL – Fordham 14-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 3rd Quarter (5:44)
EL – Abraham 7-yard blocked punt return. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 3rd Quarter (3:05)
PP – P. Johnson (7-57), Maxson (4-44), Williams (8-21).
EL – Fordham (11-135, 2 TD), Scott (4-69, TD), Abraham (1-31).
PP – Addison (7-10 for 125, 2 INT).
EL – Hudson (4-7 for 71, TD).
PP – P. Johnson (3-63), Ware (1-45), Calhoun (2-9).
EL – Scott (1-19, TD), Zettwuch (1-37), Campbell (1-13).