Quick end for Pinel­las Park

The Pa­tri­ots fall into deep hole early, suf­fer a sea­son-end­ing first loss.

Tampa Bay Times - - High Schools - BY ROD­NEY PAGE Times Staff Writer

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.

CHRIS URSO | Times

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.

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