5 teams pur­sue state ti­tle dreams

The Bradenton Herald - - Front Page - BY MIKE GARBETT mgar­bett@braden­ton.com

The drive to De­cem­ber kicks off Fri­day night with the Mana­tee County area’s four play­off qual­i­fiers open­ing their cham­pi­onship quests.

The three pub­lic-school pro­grams — Braden River, Mana­tee and Pal­metto — play their firstround game on the road, while Car­di­nal Mooney opens at home as the Cougars re­turn to the post­sea­son af­ter a one-year ab­sence.

The Florida High School Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion state cham­pi­onship games will be held Dec. 6-8 at Camp­ing World Sta­dium in Or­lando.

Here’s what you need to know as kick­off for the first round of the play­offs ap­proaches:

MANA­TEE AT KISSIMMEE OSCE­OLA

When: Fri­day, 7:30 p.m.

How they got here: The Hur­ri­canes went 6-4 in the reg­u­lar sea­son and are in the post­sea­son for the 10th con­sec­u­tive year af­ter earn­ing the No. 7 seed in Class 8A-Re­gion 2. The Kow­boys went 9-1 and cap­tured the 8A-Dis­trict 7 crown in earn­ing the No. 2 seed in the re­gion. About Mana­tee: The Canes open the play­offs at Osce­ola for the sec­ond straight sea­son. As the No. 8 seed in 2017, Mana­tee lost 44-16 . ... The Hur­ri­canes’ non-dis­trict sched­ule fea­tured games against six-time state cham­pion Lake­land (No. 1 seed in 7A-2), Pal­metto (No. 7 seed in 7A-3), Braden River (No. 5 seed in 7A-3) and Venice (No. 1 seed in 7A-3) . ... Mana­tee went 1-4 against teams that made the play­offs, its lone win a 29-20 vic­tory against Pal­metto on Aug. 31 . ... The Canes are a 7-point un­der­dog ac­cord­ing to Joe Pinkos’ fore­cast.

About Osce­ola: The Kow­boys en­ter the post­sea­son on a fourgame win­ning streak while outscor­ing the op­po­si­tion 158-40. ... Osce­ola opened the sea­son with five straight wins be­fore suf­fer­ing its lone loss, a 21-7 set­back to Tampa Je­suit, the No. 2 seed in 5A-Re­gion 3, on Oct. 5. ... The Kow­boys held their op­po­nents to 14 or fewer points in all nine of their vic­to­ries.

What’s next: The win­ner faces ei­ther No. 3 seed Sara­sota Riverview (7-3) or sixth-seeded Port St. Lu­cie Trea­sure Coast (7-3) in the 8A-2 semi­fi­nals.

BRADEN RIVER AT PLANT CITY

When: Fri­day, 7:30 p.m.

How they got here: The Pi­rates went 8-2 in the reg­u­lar sea­son and are in the post­sea­son for the fifth straight year af­ter earn­ing the No. 5 seed in Class 7A-Re­gion 3. The Raiders went 9-1 and cap­tured the 7A-Dis­trict 9 ti­tle in earn­ing the No. 4 seed in the re­gion. About Braden River: The Pi­rates will be with­out one of their top of­fen­sive play­mak­ers as se­nior wide re­ceiver Knowl­edge McDaniel was ruled in­el­i­gi­ble by the FHSAA for re­ceiv­ing im­per­mis­si­ble ben­e­fits . ... Braden River’s two losses — 27-22 to Jack­sonville Trin­ity Chris­tian and 24-21 to Venice — came

against teams that com­bined to go 19-1 and earned the top seeds in 5A-Re­gion 1 and 7A-Re­gion 3, re­spec­tively . ... The Pi­rates av­er­aged 45.5 points in their eight wins and went 4-2 against teams that made the play­offs . ... Braden River is an 4-point fa­vorite ac­cord­ing to Joe Pinkos’ fore­cast.

About Plant City: The Raiders are coached by James Booth, a for­mer as­sis­tant at Mana­tee and Pal­metto. Booth’s twin brother John was Mana­tee’s head coach from 2014-16. The Booth twins played at Mana­tee in the late 1990s un­der leg­endary coach Joe Kin­nan . ... Plant City’s lone loss was a 44-24 set­back against two-time state cham­pion Seffner Arm­wood . ... The Raiders, who had last week off, closed the reg­u­lar sea­son with wins over Bloom­ing­dale (24-10) and Tampa Bay Tech (24-21) to cap­ture the dis­trict ti­tle.

What’s next: The win­ner faces ei­ther top-seeded and de­fend­ing state cham­pion Venice (9-1) or No. 8 seed Tampa Bay Tech (7-3) in the 7A-3 semi­fi­nals.

PAL­METTO AT PINEL­LAS PARK

When: Fri­day, 7:30 p.m.

How they got here: The Tigers went 7-3 in the reg­u­lar sea­son and are in the post­sea­son for the sec­ond straight year af­ter earn­ing the No. 7 seed in Class 7A-Re­gion 3. The Pa­tri­ots went 10-0 and cap­tured the 7A-Dis­trict 10 ti­tle in earn­ing the No. 2 seed in the re­gion.

About Pal­metto: The Tigers have a high-pow­ered of­fense that topped 40 points seven times in the reg­u­lar sea­son and av­er­aged 42.3 per game . ... This is the sec­ond straight sea­son that Pal­metto opens the play­offs at Pinel­las Park. In 2017, the Tigers ral­lied for a 28-24 vic­tory be­fore be­ing elim­i­nated by Tampa Bay Tech in the re­gion semis . ... Pal­metto went 2-3 against teams that reached the play­offs, beat­ing Sara­sota Riverview (42-35) and Punta Gorda Char­lotte (40-16), and los­ing to Mana­tee (29-20), Braden River (31-28) and Venice (56-28) . ... The Tigers are a 7-point fa­vorite ac­cord­ing to Joe Pinkos’ fore­cast.

About Pinel­las Park: The Pa­tri­ots posted four shutouts — in­clud­ing three straight to open the sea­son — and won nine games by 21 points or more dur­ing their per­fect reg­u­lar sea­son . ... Pinel­las Park’s clos­est game was a 21-13 vic­tory over St. Peters­burg Lake­wood on Oct. 5 . ... The Pa­tri­ots dom­i­nated the op­po­si­tion dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, outscor­ing their op­po­nents 473-90 while putting at least 42 points on the score­board in nine of their 10 games.

What’s next: The win­ner faces ei­ther No. 3 seed Fort My­ers Riverdale (10-0) or sixth-seeded Val­rico Bloom­ing­dale (9-1) in the 7A-3 semi­fi­nals.

CLEAR­WA­TER CAL­VARY CHRIS­TIAN AT CAR­DI­NAL MOONEY

When: Fri­day, 7:30 p.m.

How they got here: The War­riors went 5-5 in the reg­u­lar sea­son and earned the No. 6 seed in Class 3A-Re­gion 3. The Cougars went 8-2 in earn­ing the No. 3 seed in the re­gion. About Cal­vary Chris­tian: The War­riors edged St. Peters­burg Catholic for the fi­nal spot in the six­team field . ... Among Cal­vary Chris­tian’s five losses was a 41-40 dou­ble-over­time set­back against the IMG White team on Oct. 26 . ... The War­riors av­er­aged 31.7 points per game dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

About Car­di­nal Mooney:

Back-to-back losses to close the reg­u­lar sea­son cost the Cougars a firstround bye in the six-team field . ... Car­di­nal Mooney beat Cal­vary Chris­tian 34-22 on Sept. 28 as part of its 8-0 start . ... Short­handed be­cause of key in­juries, the Cougars en­ter the play­offs look­ing to bounce back af­ter lop­sided losses to Clear­wa­ter Cen­tral Catholic (55-20) and Booker (30-6) to close the reg­u­lar sea­son . ... Car­di­nal Mooney is a 3-point fa­vorite ac­cord­ing to Joe Pinkos’ fore­cast. What’s next: The win­ner trav­els to No. 2 seed Tampa Berke­ley Prep (6-3) in the 3A-3 semi­fi­nals.

MOUNT DORA CHRIS­TIAN AT SAINT STEPHEN’S

When: Satur­day, 7 p.m. How they got here: Mount Dora Chris­tian (7-3) beat Riviera Beach In­let Grove 49-6 and Out-of-Door Acad­emy 21-3 to ad­vance to the Sun­shine State Ath­letic Con­fer­ence’s Co­ral League cham­pi­onship game. Saint Stephen’s (9-1) beat Ocala Chris­tian 55-9 and St. Peters­burg Shorecrest Prep 41-3 to ad­vance to the Co­ral League ti­tle game.

About Mount Dora Chris­tian: The Bull­dogs over­came an 0-3 start and have won seven straight as they head to Braden­ton . ... Mount Dora Chris­tian has been dom­i­nant dur­ing its seven-game win­ning streak, with an aver­age mar­gin of vic­tory of 39.9 points.

About Saint Stephen’s: The Fal­cons are look­ing for their third straight SSAC cham­pi­onship and have won 30 of their past 31 games dat­ing to the start of the 2016 sea­son . ... Since hav­ing its 22-game win­ning streak snapped on Sept. 7 at Win­der­mere Prep, Saint Stephen’s has won eight straight while av­er­ag­ing 44 points per game . ... The Fal­cons have been just as dom­i­nant de­fen­sively, hold­ing six of their past seven op­po­nents to sin­gle dig­its.

What’s next: The win­ner faces the Coastal League cham­pion, ei­ther Win­der­mere Prep or Or­lando Chris­tian Prep, on Nov. 17 in the fifth an­nual Florida Bowl at The Mas­ter’s Acad­emy in Oviedo.

PHO­TOS BY TIF­FANY TOMP­KINS ttomp­kins@braden­ton.com

Mana­tee’s Yusuf Shakir, clock­wise from top left, Braden River’s Curt Bradley, Car­di­nal Mooney’s Paul Maech­tle and Pal­metto’s Dave Marino will guide their teams into the state quar­ter­fi­nals Fri­day.

TIF­FANY TOMP­KINS ttomp­kins@braden­ton.com

Saint Stephen's head coach Tod Creneti will lead his team against Mount Dora on Satur­day in the SSAC semi­fi­nals.

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