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Hillsborough football: Close, but ...

By SCOTT PURKS, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 15, 2002

TALLAHASSEE -- Many thought this would be the season Hillsborough County would break down the 33-year-old wall standing between it and a state football title.

The county had two powerful teams -- Class 4A Jefferson and Class 5A Wharton -- reach state finals, the first time since 1969 when more than one county team advanced that far.

In 1969, Brandon, Blake and Pinecrest played for championships, and Blake and Pinecrest came away with crowns -- the last time a Hillsborough County team pulled it off.

Thirty-three years ago.

Jefferson and Wharton both had chances to win late in the fourth quarter at chilly Doak Campbell Stadium Thursday and Friday night, but alas, it didn't happen. Again.

On Thursday, Jefferson's hopes were dashed when Palm Bay's Eric Miller picked up a fumble and returned it 47 yards to the Dragons' 13. Five plays later, Joe Cohen stepped into the end zone from 1 yard with 6 minutes, 12 seconds to play, sealing Palm Bay's 19-10 victory.

On Friday, Pompano Beach Ely's Tyrone Moss scored his third touchdown on a 56-yard run with 3:54 to play to put away Wharton 22-10. Moss finished with 210 yards and tied the state record for career touchdowns with 107. The senior ended his high school career with 37 consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

Jefferson and Wharton ended their seasons 13-2, tying a county record for victories.

"It was a great, great run, a life experience that these kids will take with them the rest of their lives," Wildcats coach Richard Wood said. "These kids are winners, and I know they will be successful with whatever they do with their lives.

"They can look back on what they overcame and can be proud."

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