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By Times staff writers and correspondents
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 18, 2000
TARPON SPRINGS -- With the county's No. 2 passer in Achilleas Houllis sidelined for disciplinary reasons, Tarpon Springs could not outrun Lake Gibson in the second half, and defensively could not sustain the four touchdowns and more than 200 all-purpose yards from Gibson's Lathon Gaines in its season-ending playoff loss. Nelson Walker and Jeremy Saunders scored on sprints of 56 yards and 55 yards, respectively, in the first quarter, but the Spongers could not recover from two safeties that set up touchdowns for Gibson.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Knotted at 12, the Spongers picked up a Gibson fumble at their own 1-yard line and ran it out of the end zone for a Gibson safety.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Gibson was without its starting backfield, and Gaines came up big: three rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown and 103 yards off of six carries in the second half that wore out the Tarpon defense.
KEY STATISTIC: Gibson attempted three passes in the second half, keeping the ball on the ground and the clock moving.
THEY SAID IT: "Under the circumstances, we played excellent. We played the best that Pinellas County had to offer and ended at 9-2." -- Tarpon coach Don Davis.
-- ERIC MUSKATEVC
BRADENTON -- When Largo coach Rick Rodriguez watched films of Bradenton Southeast this week, he saw speed on offense and size on defense.
When he saw the Seminoles in person Friday night, Rodriguez was even more impressed.
There was Southeast quarterback Adrian McPherson, who rushed for 153 yards and threw four touchdown passes. There was receiver Jawarski Pollock, who caught three touchdown passes and returned a punt 67 yards that led to another touchdown.
There simply was too much talent as the Seminoles rolled to a 42-0 win over the Packers in a Class 4A, Region 3 quarterfinal game.
Southeast scored all of its points in the first half, and Rodriguez agreed to use a continuously running clock in the second half.
The Seminoles (8-3) amassed 405 yards of total offense compared to 100 for Largo (7-4).
"They have so much talent," Rodriguez said. "Omar (Lawrence) is our best guy, and they've got about 10 of those. They have so much speed. Their quarterback is the best I've seen in 23 years coaching."
The scoring started quickly and rarely stopped. On their first possession, the Seminoles mounted a nine-play drive highlighted by two scrambles from McPherson and capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass to Pollock in the corner of the end zone.
Largo punted to Pollock after a stalled first possession, and he returned it 67 yards to the 5. Torrence Washington scored on the next play, and five minutes into the game it was 14-0. Then came two more touchdown passes by McPherson. At the end of the first quarter it was 27-0.
Largo quarterback Marcus Paschal spent most of the first half running for his life. The Packers had only two first downs in the half and crossed midfield once. Paschal had 25 yards rushing on eight carries and threw for 22 yards. Lawrence had 32 yards on three carries, including 29 yards on a fake punt.
-- RODNEY PAGE
CLEARWATER -- Countryside came alive in the second quarter Friday night after a sluggish first, taking a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
The Cougars got on the board with a 37-yard Jon Peattie field goal.
Wide receiver Alvaro Muente injured his knee on a 23-yard reception that put Countryside in position to take the 3-0 lead.
Corey Reardon caught a 17-yard touchdown from Kyle Wolfinbarger, and running back Tom Cantillo ran 20 yards in the fourth quarter to put the game away. PLAY OF THE GAME: In the fourth quarter, Countryside clung to a 10-9 lead. Cantillo ran into a tackler in the Cougars' backfield but broke loose and ran 20 yards for a touchdown and a comfortable 17-9 lead.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME: Cougars running back Cantillo amassed 121 yards, and junior Wolfinbarger threw for 148 yards and a touchdown. But the game ball has to go to offensive lineman Brandon Rottmayer, who led the way for Cantillo and provided excellent protection for Wolfinbarger.
KEY STATISTIC: The Cougars recorded four sacks in the second half and forced Palm Coast into three third-and-long situations when the game was close.
THEY SAID IT: "I can't even explain how good this feels.I came out a little slow in the first quarter, I was a little intimidated because this is the playoffs and all, but I have got to give credit to my receivers and the line. I had excellent protection, unbelievable blocking from the line." -- Cougars quarterback Kyle Wolfinbarger.
-- ALEX LYNCH
HAINES CITY -- The clock wound down on Gibbs' upset bid against Haines City on Friday night.
And that's what had the Gladiators all wound up after losing 20-18 in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
With nine seconds remaining and the ball at the Hornets' 21-yard line, Gibbs coach Al Davis was hoping to try one more play to get closer for a potential game-winning field goal.
The Gladiators never got the chance.
Quarterback Ron Mathis threw a quick pass on a slant pattern that the referee hesitantly ruled incomplete.
The clock never stopped on the delayed call. The final four seconds ran off and the game was over.
Amid the mass confusion, neither team shook hands afterward.
Gibbs players and coaches were trying to find the officials for an explanation while Haines City fans rushed on the field to celebrate.
Hornets coach Tim Hatten said he thought the last four seconds should have stayed on the clock.
He also said he thought the officials incorrectly ruled that one of his running backs, Trumaine Calhoun, stayed in bounds on a long run in the fourth quarter. That also cost Gibbs time.
"We certainly got lucky tonight," Hatten said.
Despite disagreeing with the ruling on the field, Davis and Gladiator assistant principal for athletics Jim McAvaddy said they would not protest.
"That's the way things go in life," Davis said. "Both teams played great. I don't think it'll do any good or make any difference to protest what happened. We'll just have to take it."
Ironically, Gibbs got its final chance to rally because the Hornets couldn't run out the clock.
With 55 seconds remaining and Gibbs left with one timeout, Haines City decided to run a play on first down instead of taking a knee.
There was a fumble and the Gladiators' Siaosi Uhatafe recovered at the Hornets' 49-yard line.
Mathis completed two passes to Chris Davis and benefitted from a pass interference call to move to the 21-yard line and set up the final frantic moments.
Even though the Gladiators hoped to attempt a game-winning field goal, it wasn't a gimme.
They had missed on a point-after attempt and on a 41-yard field goal. There also were two 2-point conversions that failed.
"They (Haines City) had the home field and they got the calls," Gibbs' offensive coordinator Dave Cleppe said.
"We just have to do a better job during the regular season in order to get the home field and not let that happen."
-- BOB PUTNAM
SEMINOLE -- The third quarter of Friday's Class 4A first-round playoff game between East Bay and Seminole had a total of one (non-descript) first down and zero turnovers.
Without a doubt, however, it contained the game's pivotal play.
With Seminole trailing 6-3 and both defenses in command with 4:03 to go in the quarter, the Warhawks' Marvin Elliott burst around right end to smother an East Bay punt attempt. Elliott then calmly ran toward the sideline, where the ball lay at the Indians' 6-yard line, scooped it up and scored, lifting Seminole to an 18-6 win.
In the process, the Warhawks earned the first playoff victory of coach Sam Roper's 16-year tenure and the school's first since the 1970s.
"I was real close the first couple times they punted. The third time was the charm," said Elliott, a senior who has blocked several placekicks this year but no punts until Friday. "Then I was like, "Oh, there's nobody around. It's mine. Touchdown.'"
The dream season continues for unbeaten, No. 5-ranked Seminole (11-0), which will host King (8-3), a 10-7 winner over Auburndale, Friday night in the second round.
"These kids, they don't ever get rattled," Roper said. "I get rattled, the coaches get rattled, but these kids, they help us keep our composure."
On its first possession of the game, Seminole drove to the East Bay 9 before backing up and settling for a 32-yard field goal by Morgan Riley and a 3-0 lead.
East Bay answered on its second possession. Ultra-quick quarterback Bruce Youmans (14 carries, 108 yards) slipped around left end and outraced the defense down the sideline for a 77-yard score. Seminole blocked the extra point to make it 6-3.
Per custom, both teams stuck to the ground. Seminole spread it around, using eight ball carriers in the first quarter alone. Fullback Eric Hunter (16 carries, 65 yards) and quarterback D'Qwell Jackson (10-40) did the most work.
While the Seminole offense was sputtering in the second and third quarters, its defense was clamping down on Youmans and East Bay's option attack, limiting the Indians to 35 yards on 14 carries in the second half.
"We studied film three times a day," said Jackson, a linebacker on defense. "That man (Youmans), we had to prepare for him."
With the lead after the blocked punt, Seminole then got its offense on track, grinding out a 43-yard, 10-play, drive capped by a 5-yard run by Hunter to go up 18-6 early in the fourth quarter.
East Bay was unequipped to rally from behind, and Seminole sealed the win with 5:40 remaining on a dangerous fake punt. Jackson, who also is the punter, saw Elliott split right and all alone, and he threw to him for 16 yards on fourth and 13.
"It was just destiny for us," Jackson said. "It's time for Seminole High."
-- PETE YOUNG
ST. PETERSBURG -- St. Petersburg Catholic head coach Dan Mancuso entered Friday night's Class 2A, Region 3 playoff game against LaBelle with a plan to stop the Cowboys' passing attack.
He had an offensive plan designed to take advantage of the Barons' speed.
Both plans worked to perfection.
Taking advantage of five LaBelle turnovers, St. Petersburg Catholic secured a 48-14 victory to advance past the opening round of the football playoffs for the first time in school history.
"I've been here during the hard, lean times," Mancuso said. "But the coaches and players have worked very hard to get us to this point.
"We think we can keep going," Mancuso said.
LaBelle senior Eric Tolar passed for 382 yards, but he was intercepted twice in the Barons' end zone -- once at their 8-yard line -- and had a fourth attempt picked off for a touchdown.
"Our defense came up big," Mancuso said.
St. Petersburg Catholic scored four touchdowns off LaBelle turnovers, led by the running and passing wizardry of quarterback Chris Davis and the running of Larry Woods and Adam Gorman.
"Our offense was unstoppable," Mancuso said. "We really took advantage of our speed."
The tone was set midway through the first quarter when Jon Kizzee picked off a Tolar pass in the corner of the end zone and returned it to the Barons' 25.
It took the Barons only five plays to score, led by a spectacular 37-yard run by Davis.
On the Cowboys' next possession, Woods intercepted Tolar's pass deep inside Barons territory.
Again, it took just five plays for St. Petersburg Catholic to reach the end zone. The highlight was a 57-yard run by Davis.
He rushed for 142 yards and passed for 129. Woods had 97 yards on 13 carries.
The Barons' defenseshut down the Cowboys' running attack, forcing Tolar to pass on just about every play.
"The monkey's off our back," Mancuso said.
-- KEN SMITH
CRESCENT CITY -- Shorecrest Prep challenged the Crescent City Raiders early Friday night, but it couldn't keep pace in the second half.
The Chargers (4-7) were led by fullbacks Forrest Eleazar (15 carries, 35 yards) and Jeff Ritch (9 rushes, 34 yards). Quarterback Jeff Malley was 5 of 9 for 120 yards, but was sacked three times and threw a late interception.
Crescent City (9-2) rushed for 534 yards. J.B. Brantley led the Raiders with 222 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries.
Shorecrest held Crescent City scoreless until late in the second quarter when Raiders defensive end Brian Kuhn pulled down Eleazar in the end zone for a safety.
Crescent City scored on the ensuing possession to take a 10-0 lead.
The Chargers scored just before the end of the half on a Malley 4-yard run to pull within three points. Shorecrest's second touchdown came early in the second half when Malley found Billy Rowe on a 17-yard strike. The Chargers trailed 17-14 at that point.
But the Raiders scored three unanswered touchdowns to end the game.
-- RYAN GILCHREST
CLEARWATER -- Clearwater Central Catholic (10-1) became the first team in the school's history to win 10 games with a victory over Fort Myers Bishop Verot (6-5). The win also means the Marauders will be at home to face Clewiston next week.
CCC gained 535 yards in total offense, including 270 through the air by quarterback Jay Davis. Davis also threw for two touchdowns. The Marauders also had two 100-yard rushers with Larue Rumph (102) and Mike Scanlon (114).
Josh Vogelbach, Bishop Verot's quarterback, threw for 177 yards including two touchdown passes. Every time CCC appeared to have put Bishop Verot away, the Vikings would find a way to come back. They scored 21 fourth-quarter points. Lemec Bernard was the leading man for Bishop Verot as he totaled 156 yards in offense. Bernard also scored three times.
PLAY OF THE GAME: On a controversial play, CCC scored a touchdown in the second quarter that put the Marauders up by seven, the eventual difference. Davis threw a forward pass to Edwards, who then pitched the ball to Orlando Rivas. Rivas then started to run, stopped a yard behind the line of scrimmage and threw the ball to a wide-open Rumph, who ran in for the touchdown. Bishop Verot argued that two forward passes cannot be thrown on the same play. The officials had a conference, but decided that since the first pass did not cross the line of scrimmage the play was legal.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME: Davis led the way for the Marauders by throwing for 270 yards. Bishop Verot's Bernard scored three times, including a 60-yard touchdown reception.
KEY STATISTIC: Davis had already accumulated 108 of his 270 yards with 6:10 remaining in the first quarter.
THEY SAID IT: "It was a fun game to watch, but not from my vantage point. We had a lot of guys out, but you've got to play with what you've got." -- CCC coach John Davis.
-- CHARLES CARDWELL
VENICE -- It's not hard to come up with a mental picture of a playoff game between an undefeated, state-ranked power and a .500 squad that barely squeezed into the post-season.
Friday night the mismatch-on-paper became exactly that on the field, as Venice smashed East Lake 56-14 in a 5A, Region 3 quarterfinal game. The Indians (11-0, No. 4 in 5A) dominated the Eagles with a ground game that collected 435 yards on 45 carries.
Venice's Tre Smith led the way with 18 carries for 222 yards and four touchdowns, and teammate Ardell Daniels added two touchdowns and 108 yards on 12 carries.
"They physically pounded us, they beat us on both sides of the ball," said East Lake coach Tom Keeler. "The bottom line is, yeah, they've got a couple good running backs, but they beat us in the strength up front."
On its second play from scrimmage, Venice scored on a 33-yard run by Smith and midway through the second quarter the Indians led 21-0 after an 18-yard dash from Daniels and a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Shane Williams to Bobby Johnson.
East Lake cut the lead to 21-7 with 4:26 left in the second quarter when Leon Brooks got his hands on a deep ball from quarterback Chris Thomas, juggled, then tucked it away and ran for a 71-yard score. But Venice answered before halftime with a 6-yard Daniels run to go up comfortably again, 28-7.
In the third quarter the floodgates opened, as Smith scored on runs of 2 and 35 yards to put Venice up 42-7. In the fourth East Lake cracked the end zone one more time on a 1-yard pass from Thomas to Jason Brissette, but again Venice responded with two more touchdowns as Smith ran in from 42 yards out and Rusty McCord added a 7-yard run.
"They get the job done," Venice coach Nick Coleman said of his running backs. "(East Lake) was doing some guessing (defensively) because they had to, if they guessed right they banged us pretty good, if not there were big plays."
In his last high school game, Thomas completed 19 of 37 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. But with a bad ankle he was far from effective as a runner, with 20 yards on just six carries. As a team East Lake collected 54 yards on 22 carries.
-- JOHN SCHWARB
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