PLAYOFF RECAP: Roller-coaster night for Tampa Bay area programs

Steinbrenner hung around with visiting Sarasota Riverview for a half but couldn't keep pace, falling 31-7. The Tampa Bay area saw its number of playoff contenders cut from 33 to 15 Friday night.

Friday night did not go as planned for quite a few Tampa Bay area high school football programs. 

Going into the first round of the FHSAA postseason, the four-county area of Hillsborough (15), Pinellas (10), Pasco (6) and Hernando (2) had a total of 33 representatives. When all the action wrapped up, that number was down to 15. 

Eight games Friday night featured head-to-head matchups between Tampa Bay teams, meaning eight seasons were ending no matter what. The 10 showdowns featuring Tampa Bay programs and out-of-area schools, however, did not play out favorably for the locals. 

Only one team, Seffner Christian, picked up a victory out of that group of 10. The Crusaders won their Class 2A Region 3 matchup against Naples Neumann, 35-20, and advanced to next week’s region semifinal at No. 1 Naples First Baptist Academy.


Hillsborough (8) - Class 7A (No. 1 Tampa Bay Tech beat No. 8 Largo 30-7, No. 6 Wharton beat No. 3 Mitchell 15-8) Class 6A (No. 1 Jesuit beat No. 8 Boca Ciega 55-0, No. 7 Hillsborough beat No. 2 Pinellas Park 33-27, No. 3 Sumner beat No. 6 Northeast 8-6) Class 3A (No. 1 Berkeley Prep (BYE), No. 6 Tampa Catholic beat No. 3 Carrollwood Day 26-25) Class 2A (No. 4 Seffner Christian beat No. 5 Neumann 35-20). 

HIGHLIGHTS: Sumner, a 2-year-old program, won its first-ever playoff game by edging Northeast 8-6. The No. 3 Stingrays (9-2) surprised many by winning the District 6A-12 title over Bradenton Braden River and will now host No. 7 Hillsborough next week. The Terriers (9-2) advanced with a strong road win over No. 2 Pinellas Park. Class 7A Wharton (No. 6) picked up a hard-fought, low-scoring win at No. 3 Mitchell. Both Hillsborough and Wharton entered the fourth quarter trailing Friday night. Wharton will play next week at No. 2 Lehigh Acres Lehigh, which shutout No. 7 Gaither 27-0. Speaking of fourth-quarter comebacks, Class 3A Tampa Catholic needed to do the same at CDS. The Crusaders outscored the Patriots 9-0 in the final period to pick up the 26-25 victory and advance to a semifinal road date against No. 2 Clearwater Central Catholic. 

Pinellas (5) - Class 5A (No. 1 Clearwater beat No. 8 Hudson 55-14, No. 7 Gibbs beat No. 2 Zephyrhills 12-10) Class 4A (No. 1 Lakewood (BYE)) Class 3A (No. 2 Clearwater Central Catholic (BYE)) Class 2A (No. 2 Northside Christian (BYE)).

HIGHLIGHTS: Class 5A Region 3 No. 7 Gibbs (8-3) went to East Pasco and toughed out a 12-10 win over No. 2 Zephyrhills. The game was 12-7 Gibbs at halftime and the Gladiators did just enough to hold on and advance to next week’s road date with No. 3 Sebring. The Blue Streaks (7-3) rolled No. 6 Wesley Chapel 41-0. Clearwater senior quarterback Aiden MacLean had himself another big night in the top-seeded Tornadoes’ 55-14 dismantling of Hudson, throwing for 263 yards and four touchdowns. MacLean now has 39 touchdown passes on the year, a single-season Pinellas County record. The previous mark was 31 and stood since 1994, held by former NFLer and Gibbs High standout Shaun King. Clearwater (10-1) hosts No. 5 Nature Coast Tech next week after the Sharks held on to best No. 4 Chamberlain 24-21. 

Pasco (1) - Class 2A (No. 2 Zephyrhills Christian Academy (BYE)) 

HIGHLIGHTS: All five Pasco County programs playing games Friday night suffered defeat. Class 2A Region 2 ZCA (8-2) will look to keep the county alive next week when it hosts No. 6 Lakeland Victory Christian Academy, which improved to 5-6 on the year with Friday’s 24-7 win at No. 3 Winter Garden Foundation Academy. Pasco programs entered Friday with high hopes but came up just short in a couple contests, notably Mitchell’s 15-8 home loss against Wharton and Zephyrhills’ 12-10 home setback against Gibbs. Class 7A No. 5 Wiregrass Ranch (5-5) got jumped in the second quarter at No. 4 Palmetto (5-5) when the Tigers dropped 28 on the Bulls en route to a 41-6 rout. Palmetto’s win sets up an intriguing semifinal at No. 1 Tampa Bay Tech. 

Hernando (1) - Class 5A (No. 5 Nature Coast Tech beat No. 4 Chamberlain) 

HIGHLIGHTS: Despite having to go on the road, No. 5 NCT (8-3) entered Friday night’s Class 5A Region 3 quarterfinal against No. 4 Chamberlain (3-8) as the favorite. The Chiefs qualified for the playoffs based solely on their ability to be the best team in a weak three-team district. That also earned Chambo the home game as a league champ. But the Chiefs came out fired up to prove they belonged by jumping out to a 14-3 first-quarter lead. Unrattled, the Sharks scored 21 unanswered points between the second and third quarters and held on for the 24-21 victory. NCT now gets the test of heading to No. 1 Clearwater next week. The county’s other qualifier, Class 4A Region 2 No. 5 Hernando High, gave No. 4 Bushnell South Sumter a game four three quarters before Raiders broke away with 28 unanswered points in the fourth to win comfortably, 48-14.

Keep checking in at and for more high school football news, updates and game coverage throughout the postseason. Follow both news outlets on Twitter (@BeaconTampa and @SuncoastNews) as well as high school sports expert and correspondent Andy Villamarzo (@avillamarzo).