Quick end for Pinellas Park
The Patriots fall into deep hole early, suffer a season-ending first loss.
PINELLAS PARK — It was the kind of postgame speech Pinellas Park coach Kenny Crawford didn’t expect to make. But after the Patriots’ 38-21 loss to Palmetto in the first round of the Class 7A region playoffs, he had to talk to his team about offseason conditioning and banquet plans.
And he had plenty of time to think about what to say.
Pinellas Park (10-1) fell behind early and never recovered. It trailed 38-7 midway through the fourth quarter before scoring two late touchdowns.
“We got thumped,’’ Crawford said. “We ran into a wall. We just got beat up up front. Both sides of the ball. That and we turned the ball over too much.’’
This is the second straight season Pinellas Park has lost to Palmetto in the first round. Last season was much closer, 28-24 with the Tigers scoring in the final minute. This one slipped away much earlier.
The Patriots fell behind 21-7 at the half. Things actually started well when Brenyen Scott intercepted Palmetto quarterback Anthony Marino on the first drive. But after a punt, the Tigers started to move. Highlighted by a 24-yard run from Johnny Jones, Palmetto drove 49 yards on 10 plays. Jones finished the drive with a 4-yard run.
On their next possession, the Tigers needed only three plays. Marino, who had 153 passing yards in the first half and 184 overall, hit Josh Siplin on an 86-yard pass that made it 14-0. That seemed to get Pinellas Park’s attention.
The Patriots put together a seven-minute, 75-yard drive that ended when Derek Bryant scored from 7 yards. They then held Palmetto on the next drive and seemed to be headed for the tying score. But a lost fumble ended that drive and proved costly.
It only took the Tigers three plays to find the end zone. Marino threw his second touchdown pass, 21 yards to Eddravian Butler for the two-touchdown lead.
“We turned it over too much,’’ Crawford said. “We gave up big plays. Turn it over and give up big plays, you can’t win.’’
Faced with having to score quickly in the second half, the Patriots just dug a bigger hole. They punted on their first possession, but Scott intercepted Marino on the 8-yard line to kill a scoring drive. That just resulted in another Patriots punt, which was returned to the Pinellas Park 10. Palmetto tacked on a 21-yard field goal to make it 24-7.
Then things really fell apart. A promising drive ended when Pinellas Park fumbled on the final play of the third quarter. The Tigers went 55 yards in eight plays and scored on Marino’s 1-yard run. Corian Brown scored on a 3-yard run with 5:26 left to make it 38-7.
Lawrance Toafili scored on an 8-yard run and Bryant scored the final touchdown on a 21-yard run.
Not only was this Pinellas Park’s first loss, but it was the first time it trailed at the half. It also ties its lowest point total of the season (21-13 vs. Lakewood).
Palmetto (8-3) will play at Bloomingdale (10-1) on Friday in the semifinals.
Pinellas Park’s Rico Holmes sits alone during the final minutes of a Class 7A region playoff loss, the second straight year that Palmetto ends the Patriots’ season.