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Football: State semifinal rewind (Dec. 3)

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Three Hillsborough County teams — Berkeley Prep, Jesuit and Tampa Bay Tech — all were undefeated entering the state semifinals. They ended up keeping their perfect seasons intact by reaching the final. It is the first time since 2018 a local team has made a state title game appearance and just the third time three area teams have made it in the same season. 

Class 7A

Tampa Bay Tech 42, Lake Gibson 14

The start of Friday’s state semifinals was not exactly what the Titans envisioned.

Quarterback Xavione Washington fumbled near the goal line on a fourth down attempt. Lake Gibson capitalized by driving for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Washington more than made up for the miscue. 

The junior quarterback threw touchdown passes to Greg Gaines III and Javion McKay and had another pretty pass to Gaines that set up a short run by Ronald Sims for a score to give Tampa Bay Tech a 21-3 halftime lead. 

On defense, the Titans’ biggest task was stopping Braves running back Jaylon Glover, a Utah commit who had rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season. Glover scored twice in the second half, but it was not enough to get Lake Gibson back in the game.

Washington was not done. He added another touchdown on the ground in the third quarter for a 28-17 lead that provided enough of a cushion for Tampa Bay Tech to its first undefeated season intact. 

The win also puts the Titans in the state championship game for the first time. They will face Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in the final.  

Class 6A

Jesuit 37, Miami Northwestern 12

Five times in the past six seasons, the Tigers made it to the state semifinals but never to the championship game. 

On Friday, the drought ended. 

Jesuit, ranked 12th in the nation by MaxPreps, ended years of frustration by demolishing perennial state power Miami Northwestern to reach the final for the first time since 1992.

The past three trips the Tigers made in the state semifinals were to Fort Lauderdale or Miami to face teams that would go on to win the title. Twice, it was Plantation American Heritage. The other losses were to Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons and Northwestern.

This time, it was different.

This time, Jesuit was at home. 

The Tigers earned the trip by having the highest RPI in their region thanks in large part to beating Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas earlier in the season. That win not only helped Jesuit rocket up the national rankings but also gave the Tigers the confidence they needed to beat elite teams in South Florida. 

Led by its passing game, Jesuit got off to a hot start. Luke Knight hit Jarriett Buie on a 20-yard touchdown pass and connected with Liam Conroy on another 15-yard pass for a score to build a 14-6 lead.. Caleb Williams followed by recovering an onside kick that led to a field goal that put Tigers up 17-6 at the half.

After that, Joquez Smith did the rest on offense.

Smith scored three rushing touchdowns in the second half to put the game out of reach. 

Jesuit’s defense also did its part in keeping Bulls quarterback Taron Dickens in check. Dickens, who had thrown for more than 3,400 yards and 41 touchdowns entering the game, was held to just two touchdown passes, the last one coming in the fourth quarter when the outcome was already decided.  . 

Class 4A

Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons 36, Lakewood 18

For one half, everything went the Spartans way. 

Montrevious Lloyd scored on a short run and Anthony Colandrea threw touchdown passes to Amari Niblack and Diezel Spann to give Lakewood an 18-13 lead at the half over the defending 4A state champions.  

The Spartans were prepared for playing such a strong opponent thanks to a late season schedule that included games against Hollywood Chaminade and Lakewood. 

Then everything fell apart.

Turnovers and special teams miscues were costly. The Chiefs took advantage, scoring the final 23 points of the game to reach the final for the second straight season. 

Class 3A

Berkeley Prep 42, Lakeland Christian 14

The Buccaneers, who were in the state semifinals for the second straight season, took the next step by reaching the final for the first time in school history.

They did it in convincing fashion thanks to a devastating running game. 

Relying on the 1-2 punch of Travis Bates and Xavier Townsend, Berkeley Prep racked up more than 400 yards on the ground through the first three quarters to build a commanding lead. 

Bates, who had 1,500 yards entering the game, rushed for more than 300 and scored three touchdowns. Townsend added more than 100 and finished with two rushing touchdowns. 

The win sets up a rematch with Hollywood Chaminade in the final. Last season, the Buccaneers lost a 23-21 heartbreaker to the 3A powerhouse in the state semifinals. 

State final schedule

Class 3A

Friday (Dec. 10/Gene Cox Stadium, Tallahassee)

Berkeley Prep (12-0) vs. Chaminade (10-1), 7

Class 7A

Dec. 17 (DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale)

Tampa Bay Tech (14-0) vs. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, 7

Class 6A

Dec. 18 (DRV/PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale)

Jesuit (14-0) vs. Pine Forest (12-1), 7

Football

NFL: The list of locals in this weekend’s wild-card games

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Diontae Johnson

There are a number of former high school standouts to keep tabs on during this weekend’s NFL wild-card games. Here is the schedule along with the list of locals.

Saturday, Jan. 15

Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals, 4:30 NBC

Las Vegas

  • No local players

Cincinnati

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
CB Vernon Hargreaves IIIWhartonFlorida
WR Auden TateWhartonFlorida State
TE Mitch WilcoxTarpon SpringsSouth Florida
* Auden Tate is currently on the reserves list

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills, 8:15 CBS

New England

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
WR Nelson AgholorBerkeley PrepSouthern California
OL Isaiah WynnLakewoodGeorgia
* Isaiah Wynn is out because of injuries

Buffalo

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
RB Matt BreidaNature CoastGeorgia Southern
DE Mike LoveCountrysideSouth Florida
* Mike Love currently is on the practice squad

Sunday, Jan. 16

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 FOX

Philadelphia

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
WR Deon CainTampa Bay TechClemson
* Deon Cain currently is on the practice squad

Tampa Bay

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
P Sterling HofrichterArmwoodSyracuse
OG Brandon WaltonSeminoleFlorida Atlantic
* Sterling Hofrichter and Brandon Walton currently are on the practice squad

San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 CBS

San Francisco

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
OG Jon HalapioSt. Petersburg CatholicFlorida
LB Azeez Al-ShaairHillsboroughFlorida Atlantic
* Jon Halapio currently is on the practice squad

Dallas

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
CB Anthony BrownHillsboroughPurdue

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:15 NBC

Pittsburgh

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
OT Chaz GreenTampa CatholicFlorida
WR Diontae JohnsonLennardToledo
WR Ray-Ray McCloudSicklesClemson
* Chaz Green currently is on the practice squad

Kansas City

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
WR Byron PringleRobinsonKansas State

Monday, Jan. 16

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 ESPN, ESPN 2, ABC

Arizona

  • No local players
Tight end (89) Tyler Higbee of the Los Angeles Rams catches a pass and scores a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals and celebrates during the Rams 31-24 victory over the Cardinals in an NFL Week 17 regular season game, Sunday, December 29, 2019, in Los Angeles, CA. (Jeff Lewis)

Los Angeles Rams

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
WR Jacob HarrisPalm Harbor UniversityCentral Florida
TE Tyler HigbeeEast LakeWestern Kentucky
* Jacob Harris currently is on the reserves list
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Football: Jesuit’s Matt Thompson named state coach of the year

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Jesuit coach Matt Thompson, who led the Tigers to their first state title since 1968, was named the overall state football coach of the year by the Florida Dairy Farmers. 

Thompson, named the 6A coach of the year two weeks ago, won the overall award following a final round of voting by a statewide panel of football coaches and media representatives. He finished with 10 first-place votes and 157 points to beat out Venice’s John Peacock, the 8A coach of the year who led the Indians to a state title. 

After reaching the state semifinals each of the last four seasons, the Tigers took the next step by beating perennial powerhouse Miami Northwestern in the state semifinals to advance to the championship game for the first time since 1992. 

In the 6A final, Jesuit rallied from a 15 point second half deficit to beat Pensacola Pine Forest for its first title in 53 years. The Tigers finished the season undefeated and ended up ranked No. 8 nationally, the highest of any area program in the MaxPreps era. During the regular season, Jesuit beat 7A state champion Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, becoming the first area program to knock off the national power. 

Thompson has 99 games and made six state semifinal appearances during his tenure.  

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Football: Pinellas Park’s Kenny Crawford steps down as coach

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Pinellas Park coach Kenny Crawford, who transformed the school’s downtrodden football into a consistent playoff contender, said he was stepping down after 13 seasons. 

“It was time,” Crawford said. “The job was just becoming too much.”

Former Boca Ciega coach Max Smith, who served as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator this past season, will replace Crawford as coach. The decisions were announced to the team on Monday. 

Crawford, a former assistant at Northeast, was hired at Pinellas Park in 2009. He inherited a program that won five games from 2004-08. 

It did not take long for Crawford to turn things around. He went 10-10 his first two seasons in (2009-10), doubling the win total from the previous five seasons combined. Since then, Crawford has guided the Patriots to the playoffs in 10 of the past 11 seasons. 

He finishes as the school’s all-time leader in wins with 95. 

“When I took over, this was the worst team in the county,” Crawford said. “We never had a losing season during my time as coach. That’s something to be proud of.”

Crawford also spent countless hours helping kids play football at the next level. More than 100 of his players went on to play in college during his tenure.  

Part of the reason Crawford decided to step down was because of health issues. In the past five years, he has had surgery on his spine and both hips.

“I coached half of this past season in a golf cart,” Crawford said. “It just became too much.”

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