PATRIOTS 45 EAGLES 24
PINELLAS PARK – Running back Lawrance Toafili rushed for nearly 180 yards and three touchdowns and added another score on a 97-yard kick return as host Pinellas Park picked up a program-first victory over Class 7A District 10 rival East Lake.
“To me it’s really big,” Toafili said after the Patriots’ 45-21 win. “That was one of my goals. We were supposed to beat them last year but we lost by one point.”
Pinellas Park outscored its first three opponents 150-0 but East Lake put an end to that shutout streak within the first few minutes of game time. Isaac Gibbs gave the Eagles an early lead with a 62-yard touchdown run.
“It was great because we had not seen adversity yet this year,” Patriots coach Kenny Crawford said. “We’ve kind of had everything go our way up until that point. When they scored first I told the guys we have to dig deep. But I told them before the game some bad stuff is going to happen during this game and when it does we have to stay together and fight our way out of it. That’s what they did. They played so hard.”
That 7-0 advantage held up through the first quarter, but not much longer.
Pinellas Park tied the game two plays into the second period on Brandon Copolla’s 18-yard scoring pass to Derek Bryant. Toafili gave the Patriots the lead for good on their next drive, busting off a 65-yard run.
Pinellas Park hung 31 points on East Lake during a dominant, game-changing second quarter that included a pair of interceptions by junior safety Cody Willoughby and Toafili’s 97-yard kick return.
“That was Coach Crawford’s first kick return (for a touchdown) ever since he’s been coaching here,” Toafili said. “It’s big because I’ve been wanting to get a kick return for him. That’s my man.”
The kick return answered a 65-yard catch-and-run touchdown from East Lake’s Matt Trotto to Micah Abraham that narrowed Pinellas Park’s lead to 21-14.
The high-scoring second quarter also included a 39-yard field goal from Patriots kicker Robert Myrick and a 46-yarder from East Lake’s Alan Kervin.
East Lake got to within one score again on its first drive of the second half. Trotto found Gibbs and the senior running back did the rest, going 34-yards to the end zone and making the score 31-24.
The score held into the fourth quarter before Pinellas Park converted a massive third-and-8 situation from inside its own 10. The Patriots swung Bryant out wide and Copolla dropped a well-placed pass over the defender and into his targets hands. Bryant raced downfield for an 87-yard pickup to the East Lake 6 and Toafili punched in a 4-yard score three plays later.
“It’s one of our go-to plays,” Crawford said of the big gain that set up the touchdown. “All eyes are on [Toafili] and you give a little ball fake and they forget about Derek [Bryant] and he’s the wrong guy to forget about because he’s electric.”
The Patriots defense didn’t allow East Lake into its territory the rest of the quarter and Bryant iced the win on a 4-yard score with 59 seconds remaining.
Friday night was both teams’ first District 7A-10 contest and Pinellas Park is now tied atop the league standings with St. Petersburg, which beat Seminole 45-0. The Patriots are off next week and head to St. Pete on Sept. 28.
East Lake fell to 2-2 overall and faces a big test next week when state-ranked Lakeland comes to town for a visit. The Eagles traveled to Lakeland last year and lost 24-7.
EL - 7 – 10 – 7 – 0 --- 21
PP - 0 – 31 – 0 – 14 --- 45
EL – Gibbs 62-yard run. Kick (Kervin) – 1st Quarter
PP – Bryant 18-yard pass from Copolla. Kick (Myrick) – 2nd Quarter
PP – Toafilli 65-yard run. Kick (Myrick) – 2nd Quarter
PP – Mathis 1-yard run. Kick (Myrick) – 2nd Quarter
EL – Abraham 65-yard pass from Trotto. Kick (Kervin) – 2nd Quarter
PP – Toafili 97-yard kick return. Kick (Myrick) – 2nd Quarter
PP – Myrick 39-yard FG. – 2nd Quarter
EL – Kervin 46-yard FG. – 2nd Quarter
EL – Gibbs 34-yard pass from Trotto. Kick (Kervin) – 3rd Quarter
PP – Toafili 4-yard run. Kick (Myrick) – 4th Quarter
PP – Bryant 4-yard run. – 4th Quarter
CCC 47 Tarpon 6
PHU 41 Riverview 25
C-Water 58 Northeast 40
Barron Collier 31 Lakewood 14
Lakeland 58 Gibbs 0
St. Pete 45 Seminole 0
Bogie 66 Osceola 7
Calvary 14 Z-Hills Christ. 7
Victory Christ. 10 Farragut 3
IRC 48 Keswick 6
Foundation 48 N-Side Christ. 0
Hudson 35 Gulf 12
Mitchell 28 Springstead 7
River Ridge 35 Anclote 0
Wesley Chapel 14 Fivay 13
Sickles 13 Wiregrass 12
LOL 35 Sunlake 24
Cypress Creek 14 Pasco 8
Calvary 14 Z-Hills Christ. 7
Bishop McLaughlin 21 Santa Fe 15