CLASS 5A: (7-4) Tarpon Springs 31, (6-5) Anclote 0
HOLIDAY — Tarpon Springs got the last word.
The Spongers emphatically let it be known which team owns this young rivalry, traveling five miles up the road to wipe out Anclote, 31-0.
“It’s a little different brand of football when you cross the river,” Tarpon Springs coach Ron Hawn pointedly said of his program located on the Pinellas County side of the Anclote River. “We looked good. We played hard and our guys deserve it.”
After plenty of back-and-forth chatter leading up to this Class 5A region quarterfinal, Tarpon Springs (7-4) was the team backing it up on the field. The Spongers held Anclote (6-5) to only 38 yards of offense while piling up 297 .
Senior Montel Johnson and junior Michael Ford led the charge for Tarpon Springs, accounting for three of the Spongers’ four touchdowns. Johnson scored on receptions of 38 yards and 33 yards, respectively, and totaled 121 yards of offense.
“He should be on the North County all-star team, without a doubt,” Hawn said of Johnson, his dynamic playmaker.
Ford cracked the century mark rushing for the fifth time this season, picking up 145 yards on 23 carries. His team up 3-0 early, Ford jumpstarted a 21-point Spongers second quarter. The junior started the drive by bursting through the middle for 42 yards and then finished it on the next play with his 15-yard scoring run.
The Spongers move on to play 5A-Distrct 8 champion Lakewood next Friday. The Spartans, who smashed Hudson 75-19 on Friday, won the teams’ regular-season matchup 46-21.
CLASS 5A: (8-3) Lakewood 75, (6-5) Hudson 19
ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood is a perennial basketball contender in the state playoffs, but on Friday, its football team put up points resembling a contest on the hardwood, crushing Hudson 75-19 in the Region 2 quarterfinals.
Donterrio Fowler led the Spartans with 77 yards on nine carries, including three touchdowns. Fowler, who said he sprained his knee on the opening kickoff, also caught a touchdown pass.
Ryan Davis was equally impressive, passing for 206 yards on 10-of-14 completions, including two touchdowns.
“I think it’s the most complete he’s played all season,” Lakewood coach Cory Moore said of Davis. “If he’s able to play like that, we have a talented backfield to complement the passing game going forward.”
CLASS 5A: (9-3) Citra North Marion 17, (7-4) Pasco 7
CITRA — There were no words. No excuses, either.
And there was also no real reasons as to why, after all the adversity the Pirates had faced, that they were handed their first first-round playoff loss since 2009.
“You can’t win every time,” coach Tom McHugh said. “It’s a life lesson that you don’t always get what you want. It’s amazing how life parallels football and teaches you that, sometimes, there’s someone better than you. And tonight, the better team won.”
“(Tonight’s) indescribable — there’s no other way to say it,” Pasco defensive lineman Jacob Morphew added.
And the better team, on a windy and rainy Friday night, was Citra North Marion, which defeated Pasco 17-7 at Stan Toole Stadium in a Class 5A-Region 2 quarterfinal.
However, the Pirates, who started the season 2-3 only to win five straight to make the playoffs, started the game with a bang.
Senior Malik Johns took the opening kickoff 92 yards for the quick lead in just 14 seconds. The Colts (9-3) would counter on the next drive, though the Pirates (7-4) held them to a 27-yard David Hatcher field goal.
The defenses would stall the opposing offenses, and the game went to halftime with a 7-3 Pasco lead.
“Our seniors, you look at them after this game, and you see they left everything on the field — played their hearts out and I couldn’t be prouder,” McHugh said. “They’re like my kids, and like that. You don’t always get your way. We had to finish the second half.”
“I thought we did a good job in the first half, but the second half got away from us,” added Morphew, who had a sack and a tackle for a loss. “We, as a defense, had to finish.”
North Marion took its first lead at 7:17 in the third quarter when Javontres Autry took a screen pass from quarterback Caleb Seiler 57 yards for the score. And on the first play of the fourth, running back James Allen, who had 69 yards rushing on 17 carries, scored on a 12-yard run.
However, Pasco, including Johns who rushed 19 times for 55 yards and even connected for two big pass plays with Nate Craig, was held scoreless in the second half and had just 137 yards of total offense.
“You can’t win if you don’t score,” Johns said. “I’m ... I’m heartbroken tonight because this is my family. I thought there was more I could do for us on the field so we could come away with a win. I wanted to do more than my part so this wasn’t our last game, but I love these guys and this school. ... I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
CLASS 6A: (9-2) Gainesville 17, (9-2) Sunlake 14
GAINESVILLE — The winningest senior class in Sunlake’s short history will have to look back at what could’ve been at Milton Lewis Field on a cold, rainy Friday.
In a game that featured several big momentum swings late in the final quarter, the final couple swung right into the lap of Gainesville in spite of what looked to be the game-winning touchdown scored by Sunlake with under two minutes remaining. The Hurricanes blocked a Seahawks punt with 47.1 seconds and Alex Holloway knocked down a 42-yard field goal with 8.8 seconds left to help Gainesville come away with a 17-14 victory in a Class 6A-Region 2 quarterfinal.
“Unfortunately, we had some silly penalties towards the end there that cost us the game,” Sunlake coach Bill Browning said. “The seniors are a great bunch of guys. The effort was fantastic tonight.”
Sunlake (9-2) kept up with Gainesville (9-2) and played its game plan nearly to perfection. Seahawks junior tailback Nathan Johnson had 27 carries for 114 yards and one TD. Sunlake’s tenacious defense came after Gainesville’s skill players, as Hurricanes quarterback Caelan Christian (six of 19, 54 yards) and running back Tony James (21 carries, 124 yards) both were injured during the game and came out. Though Sunlake held Gainesville to 189 yards, both players returned and James would make the biggest impact.
After being tied at 7 since the 5:05 mark in the second quarter, Sunlake took the lead in the fourth period on a 67-yard touchdown pass from Esteban LeWallen (five of 12, 133 yards) to a wide-open Ricardo Williams with 1:37 left. Two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, however would push Sunlake back to its own 5, on the ensuing kickoff, James returned the short kick 65 yards to tie the game at 14.
Sunlake decided to punt with about 55 seconds left, but Gainesville’s Mailon Waddell blocked the punt. The Hurricanes took over with 47 seconds left before Holloway ended it.
Gainesville 0 7 0 10 — 17