Hillsborough/Pinellas Region Semifinal Capsules
Palmetto (5-5) at Tampa Bay Tech (11-0): The Titans are one of two undefeated Hillsborough County teams in the playoffs right now and they’ll need to get through a tough Palmetto team that shellacked Wiregrass Ranch 41-6 last week. Running back James Evans (885 yards) is the Titans’ top rusher heading into this one.
Wharton (8-2) at Lehigh (7-2): After getting out of Trinity with a narrow win over the Mitchell Mustangs, the Wildcats now set their sights on stopping one of the nation’s top running backs in Richard Young (1,699 yards). Mike Williams’ defense is gearing up to stop the Lightning’s power running attack.
Braden River (9-1) at Jesuit (11-0): This Jesuit defense is riding a five-game shutout streak and they look to continue that when the Tigers welcome Braden River into town Friday night. The Pirates edged out Countryside 30-16, but they’ll have their hands full versus the nationally ranked Tigers.
Hillsborough (9-2) at Sumner (9-2): If there’s any head coach who has plenty of experience in the playoffs, it’s Earl Garcia. It’s his experience and a talented team against an upstart Sumner club that just won its first playoff game in school history. The Terriers are looking to setup a rematch with the Tigers in the region final.
Nature Coast (8-3) at Clearwater (10-1): These are two teams with totally different agendas on offense, as the Tornadoes want to throw the ball all over the place with Aidan MacLean (2,404 yards, 39 touchdowns) and the Sharks want to keep it on the ground with tailback Christian Cromer (1,900 yards). Which offense can dictate pace will decide this contest.
Gibbs (8-3) at Sebring (7-3): The upset minded Gladiators went into Zephyrhills last Friday and pulled off a surprise victory. Now Gibbs wants to make it two in a row when it travels into Highlands County to face the Blue Streaks. If Gibbs wants to pull off another win, they’ll need to stick with the formula of playing solid defense.
Belle Glade Glades Central (6-5) at Lakewood (8-2): The Spartans are hoping to make a run to the Class 4A state championship but their quest starts versus the storied Raiders’ program that is very battle tested. Though Glades Central lost the annual ‘Muck Bowl’ game 28-0 to Pahokee, don’t let the Raiders fool you. They have the talent to pull off an upset here.
Bishop Verot (6-4) at Berkeley Prep (9-0): If you want to beat Berkeley Prep, you’ll have to stop the two-headed monster of Xavier Townsend and Travis Bates. Townsend (712 yards) and Bates (1,178 yards) showcased their talents on national television when they tore up Arch Manning’s New Orleans Newman squad 49-24 on October 22.
Tampa Catholic (7-3) at Clearwater Central Catholic (7-3): These two teams already met earlier in the 2021 season and the Marauders came away with a 38-21 win. Will the rematch be any different? CCC running back Lenwood Sapp has rushed for 1,332 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. Tampa Catholic is led defensively by linebacker Corey Lucius Jr. (51 tackles).
Seffner Christian (6-4) at First Baptist Academy (8-1): Freshman Jordan Magwood will look to guide the Crusaders to a second win against a Naples area team when they face First Baptist Academy Friday night. The Crusaders are averaging just above 180 yards rushing per game and will need a balanced offense and stiff defense in order to pull off the road win.
Community School of Naples (8-2) at Northside Christian (6-2): Eighth grader Will Griffin will look to keep his incredible first season going when he faces off against Community School in the region semifinals. Griffin has thrown for 2,024 yards and 26 touchdowns this 2021 season and will have four more years in front of him.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.