Hillsborough: Friday night sights

Some prep football observations from the past week and a glimpse of the games ahead.

Published November 1, 2006

Talk about Your Flag Football

Following his team’s controversial 3-0 loss to Palmetto in Monday night’s Class 3A, District 11 tiebreaker, Robinson coach Mike DePue struggled to hold his tongue around reporters.

It may have been the only case of holding the officials didn’t call.

In 12 minutes, the Knights and Tigers were flagged eight times for 70 yards, with Robinson getting five of the penalties. At that rate, the officials would have thrown 32 flags for 280 yards in a full game.

And that doesn’t include some debatable no-calls. At least twice, Tigers quarterback Bryan Smith appeared to intentionally throw the ball away after being flushed from the pocket, but grounding wasn’t called.

Additionally, cornerback Renard Bell appeared to land out of bounds after intercepting a tipped pass from Knights quarterback Justin Le, setting up Palmetto’s winning kick in overtime. Nonetheless, DePue was diplomatic afterward — at least around reporters.

“A heartbreaker,” said DePue, whose club allowed Palmetto only 42 yards in regulation. “The defense came out and did exactly what we wanted. Again, was that an interception in the end zone? I don’t think so. You lose a (tiebreaker), it’s a crapshoot. Things like that just happen.”

Dominance Dissolved

For now, the Hillsborough swagger has been supplanted by the Pasco County puffed chest.

Land O’Lakes’ 18-0 victory Friday over Wharton not only gave the Gators the Class 5A, District 5 title, it temporarily quashed Hillsborough County’s longtime reign of terror over its northerly neighbor. The Gators’ triumph was its second in as many weeks against a Hillsborough team — it rallied from a 24-0 deficit to defeat Gaither the week before — and third in two seasons.

Before 2005, no Pasco public school had defeated a Hillsborough counterpart in the regular season since November 1996. And lest you believe the Pasco resurgence is confined to Land O’Lakes, consider: Class 3A Zephyrhills defeated playoff-bound 6A foe Plant City in a preseason classic.

Land O’Lakes, incidentally, hosts Chamberlain in the first round of the 5A playoffs Nov. 10.

Garcia a Gamecock?

Though Jefferson quarterback Stephen Garcia isn’t expected to announce his college of choice until national signing day in early February, we’re speculating the county’s all-time passing yardage leader will wind up at South Carolina.

Our basis: Steve Spurrier’s newfound infatuation with mobile quarterbacks. Behind fleet senior Syvelle Newton, Spurrier’s offense has enjoyed a resurgence in the season’s second half, highlighted by a nationally-televised near upset of Auburn. Newton, however, is gone after this season.

That would offer Garcia, as good a running quarterback as anyone this state has to offer, a chance to compete almost immediately in what could be a wide-open race. Former starter Blake Mitchell, who will be a senior in 2007, would be the only returning Gamecocks QB with any real collegiate experience.

Five Signs the Playoff System is Flawed

5. The final week of the regular season has no playoff implications.
4. Unranked Plant City (4-5) gets to host a first-round game, while …
3. Fourth-ranked Armwood (8-1) has to travel.
2. Riverview (7-2), undefeated against county opposition, didn’t make the playoffs.
1. Brandon (3-7) did.

They Said It

“As Kevin Valenti goes, Jesuit goes.” — Jesuit coach Joe Ross, who may never have spoken truer words. Valenti ran for all 121 of the Tigers’ yards in their 14-3 win over Palmetto in Monday’s Class 3A, District 11 tiebreaker.
Joey Knight, Times staff writer