St. Petersburg makes a second-half comeback to down Dixie Hollins and vault itself into the playoffs.
By BOB PUTNAM
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- In order to make the playoffs, St. Petersburg knew it was going to need some help.
The Green Devils just didn't expect it to come from Dixie Hollins.
Trailing by eight points late in the third quarter, St. Petersburg rallied by capitalizing on the Rebels' mistakes and came away with a 21-10 victory.
The win, coupled with a Clearwater loss to Seminole, means the 3-7 Green Devils have made the playoffs under first-year coach Todd St. Louis.
"It sure wasn't pretty, but we'll take it," St. Louis said.
The Rebels were in the same situation as the Green Devils and needed a win and some help to get into the postseason.
Dixie Hollins appeared to have control of the game. Kevin Marion, who was tackled in the end zone for a safety, made up for it with a 12-yard run for a score. He almost had another touchdown on the final play of the first half, running 48 yards before being pushed out at the 12-yard line.
The Rebels kept the momentum going in the third quarter as Marion and George Lovett ran them into position for a field goal. Vinny Iacopelli responded with a 40-yard field goal -- his longest of the season -- to put Dixie Hollins ahead 10-2 late in the third quarter.
After managing just 28 yards through nearly three quarters, St. Petersburg gained 67 yards on its next possession and capped off the drive in bizarre fashion as Sylvester Stephens picked up a fumble and ran 11 yards for a score. The two-point conversion failed and the Green Devils trailed 10-8.
"Once you see things like that happen," St. Louis said of Stephens' fumble recovery, "you start to think you're going to win."
However, the biggest break came with less than six minutes remaining.
St. Petersburg recovered a Dixie Hollins fumble on a punt return, and four plays later, Jeremy Biandudi hit Fred Chisom for a 14-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion again failed and the Green Devils took the lead 14-10.
The Rebels had a chance to regain the lead but were stopped on downs on their next possession.
Vince Patterson capped the scoring for St. Petersburg with a 20-yard run. Brett Seitz added the extra point.
"We needed to pull out a game like this," St. Louis said. "We've had so many things that haven't gone our way -- penalties, turnovers, mistakes.
"We just kept the faith and finally had something go right."
The loss was particularly painful for Dixie Hollins. Three weeks ago, the Rebels were 4-3 and undefeated in district play. They ended the season with three straight losses.
"We just can't beat St. Petersburg," said Dixie Hollins' Mike Morey, who hasn't beaten the Green Devils in his four years as coach.
"They outplayed us and deserved to go to the playoffs."