The more Clearwater Central Catholic scored, the more the pressure of being in the playoffs let up. In fact, by the end of Friday's region semifinal win over Frostproof, the Marauders actually looked like they were having fun and every play was going according to script.
Such as when senior running back Anthony Arguelles finally got his hands on the ball for the first time late in the fourth quarter and ended up scoring CCC's final touchdown of the game four plays later. Arguelles, who rushed for 66 yards on four carries, ended the drive with a 29-yard touchdown run.
"I don't know if I've ever wanted a kid to score a touchdown more than that," CCC coach Mike Jalazo said. "He's one of the hardest working kids you'll ever find."
If that wasn't sweet enough, in between Arguelles's carries, senior wide receiver David Franz caught his first pass in a game, a 15-yarder from quarterback Geoff Craig.
CCC forced interceptions, recovered fumbles and pounded the ball into Frostproof's defense, advancing to next week's regional final against No. 4 Fort Pierce John Carroll, which is 10-1 after beating CCC rival St. Petersburg Catholic.
It is the furthest the Marauders have advanced in the football playoffs.
"If we play like we did (Friday), no one could beat us," said senior running back Paul Raven.
RED, HOT AND BECK: There is no hotter player in the playoffs than Countryside quarterback Harrison Beck.
If someone told you that star running Isaiah Gwyn would have less than 100 yards in the past two games combined, but Countryside would roll to easy wins, you might raise an inquisitive eye.
But thanks to Beck, it's true. In his last two games, Beck has thrown for 545 yards and seven touchdowns, including four in the Cougars playoff win Friday over Alonso.
The seven touchdowns are more than 15 starting quarterbacks on other teams had all season.
NO SECOND CHANCE: Morgan Riley's missed extra point might have been the difference in Clearwater's 21-20 victory over Seminole, but two late plays by the Tornadoes kept the Warhawks' kicker from getting a shot at a potential winning field goal.
First, Jason Bruce recovered Riley's onside kick at the Clearwater 42 with 2:29 to play. Then, with Seminole expecting the Tornadoes to keep the ball on the ground, Brice Lawrence completed a 34-yard pass to Brad Sommerville to the Warhawks' 24.
"That was one of the best plays we had all night," Lawrence said.
Though Clearwater turned the ball over on downs with nine seconds remaining, Seminole was out of timeouts and well out of field goal range.
ON THE SIDELINES: A shouting match between Seminole offensive coordinator Joe Fabrizio and a spectator nearly escalated into a fight after the Warhawks' surprising loss.
Fabrizio threw his clipboard to the ground and challenged the spectator to come down from the stands before security guards rushed to the scene. Fabrizio jogged off the field without further incident.
It was unclear what started the argument.
TRUE GANGSTA: When Armwood had its first fourth down in the Class 4A regional quarterfinal against Dunedin, weirdness ensued. Lining up like they were going to go for first down, the Hawks offense suddenly ran off the field and the punt team raced to take place. This is what the Hawks call "Gangsta Punt," a tricky play designed to confuse its opponents. The Falcons were plenty confused ... and angry. One of Dunedin's coaches drew a penalty after the play and the Hawks got their first down.
MISSING LINK: Sergio Felton had to leave Friday's game numerous times because of a back injury, and Lemon Bay was the beneficiary.
The first time Felton left, he was on defense, and the Mantas completed a pass for 33 yards the next play, their longest gain of the night.
After sweeping left for a 1-yard gain, Felton got hurt again. Only problem was, it was 4th-and-4 on the Lemon Bay 14 with 1:46 remaining. Without their best player, Osceola's season came to an end on a dropped pass at the 1.
- Compiled by LAURA LEE, EMILY NIPPS, FRANK PASTOR AND JOHN C. COTEY.