LARGO — If there's one thing Pinellas Park is exceptionally well-equipped to do, it's play with a lead.
The Patriots' run-dominated attack is a three-headed, clock-eating monster and a second-half hole is an unenviable place for any team to find itself.
Unfortunately for visiting Countryside(6-3, 3-2), that's exactly where the Cougars stood after watching the back Donte Maxson's jersey speed 80 yards into the end zone in the third quarter.
That long run – Maxon's second of three touchdowns – put Pinellas Park up 24-10 with 3:59 left in the third quarter of a game with win-or-stay-home implications for both squads. There was still 16 minutes of football remaining, but that play marked the beginning of the end for Countryside's postseason aspirations.
“That was huge,” Pinellas Park coach Kenneth Crawford said of Maxson's run. “Donte's got the ability to go anytime he touches the ball and to see him break out and go like that is awesome.”
The Patriots eventually tacked on three more touchdowns while ripping through C-Side, 46-10, and becoming the Class 7A District 9 runners-up. It marks the Pinellas Park's third consecutive postseason appearance, a program first.
“It's a big step for the program,” Crawford said. “It's awesome to see these kids step up and stay together when their backs are against the wall.”
Maxson, Friday night's star performer, said he's excited but ready for the Patriots' next test.
“This means the world to us,” he said. “This is the first time we've gone to the playoffs three years in a row and we're looking to win.”
Although Maxson only touched eight balls Friday night, he single-handedly outgained the entire Countryside backfield. The junior rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns. The Cougars ground game was limited to 137 yards, not counting lost sack yardage, on 33 attempts.
As a team, Pinellas Park rushed for 321 yards and outgained Countryside in total offense, 421-190.
Starting with Maxson's 80-yard blast through the right side, Pinellas Park could do no wrong over the final two quarters. Quarterback Angel Addison threw only one second-half pass. It went 56 yards for a touchdown to Alonzo McCray.
Countryside, on the other hand, never found its rhythm all night. Much of that was because of the solid Pinellas Park defense, but self-inflicted mistakes stunted seemingly every drive at some point. The Cougars were hit with 14 penalties for 108 total yards, many of the pre-snap mental-mistake variety.
Pinellas Park (8-1, 4-1) didn't fare much better in that category, committing nine infractions for 100 yards.
Countryside actually looked to be controlling the game early. Running back Donte Satcher opened the scoring with a 25-yard run on 4th-and-2 during the night's opening drive. After the Patriots' Pierre Johnson answered with a 35-yard score and successful 2-point conversion, Cougars kicker Martin Turowski converted a 35-yard field goal.
Pinellas Park's 2-point attempt was a night-long theme; not as a statement, but as a necessity. Kicker Marko Manlivic was unavailable Friday, leaving the Patriots with no option other than going for two. The forced strategy played out well for Pinellas Park, which converted five of six conversions.
Both teams played the Week 10 matchup noticeably shorthanded. Pinellas Park was missing two starting interior defensive linemen and Countryside suited up without defensive lineman Steven Czop and running back/defensive back Michael Johnson.
Without the option of Johnson's explosiveness, the Countryside offense found itself to be extremely one-dimensional. Satcher (19 carries for 108 yards) proved to be the Cougars' only effective ball carrier and C-Side quarterbacks completed just 6 of 21 pass attempts for 67 yards and an interception.
Pinellas Park, though, felt more than comfortable in its one-sided offensive focus. The Patriots dared Countryside to stop its running game for 24 second-half minutes and the Cougars simply couldn't answer the challenge.
Pinellas Park ends its regular season next week with a trip to Dunedin before staying on the road for a trip to District 7A-10 champ Sarasota High in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs.
The loss now keeps Countryside at home for the second-straight postseason. The Cougars missed out last year after having to forfeit their first six games of the season. C-Side wraps up the 2013 campaign with Senior Night at home next week against Largo High.
CS - 7 – 3 – 0 – 0 --- 10
PP - 8 – 8 – 8 – 22 --- 40
CS – Satcher 25-yard run. PAT kick (Turowski) – 1st Quarter (9:33)
PP – P. Johnson 35-yard run. 2-pt. run (Williams) – 1st Quarter (7:47)
CS – Turowski 35-yard FG – 2nd Quarter (11:16)
PP – Maxson 22-yard run. 2-pt. run (Maxson) – 2nd Quarter (9:34)
PP – Maxson 80-yard run. 2-pt. run (P. Johnson) – 3rd Quarter (3:59)
PP – Maxson 26-yard run. 2-pt. run (Williams) – 4th Quarter (11:36)
PP – McCray 56-yard pass from Addison. 2-pt. run (Addison) – 4th Quarter (7:53)
PP – Calhoun 5-yard run. 2-pt. run failed – 4th Quarter (3:30)
CS – Satcher (19-108, TD), Hicks (6-28).
PP – Maxson (8-139, 3 TD), P. Johnson (11-82, TD), Williams (9-50).
CS – Hicks (4-14 for 48, INT), Chmelik (2-7 for 19).
PP – Addison (3-6 for 100, TD, INT).
CS – Kimbrough (2-36), Ryan (2-14), Cole (1-13).
PP – McCray (1-56, TD), Ware (1-36).