Playoff Football: Four Pinellas programs alive

Lakewood and sophomore Darone Maxwell-Black can reach the Class 5A region finals for a second straight year with a victory over Jefferson Friday night.

Only two of five Pinellas County football programs survived last week, but four teams remain in the mix thanks to first-round byes earned by Clearwater Central Catholic and Admiral Farragut. Pinellas Park couldn’t keep its unbeaten season going, falling 38-21 to Palmetto. Clearwater’s trip to Punta Gorda Charlotte ended in a 44-20 defeat and Largo dropped a tight one at home, 24-17, against North Fort Myers.

Class 5A: No. 8 Jefferson (6-5) at No. 4 Lakewood (6-5)

Lakewood represents Pinellas County’s final public-school hope in this postseason.

The Spartans picked up a 10-6 victory over Sarasota Booker last week and will face a greater challenge Friday against Jefferson, which pulled off a 19-16 upset over Class 5A Region 3 top seed Wauchula Hardee.

Both teams enter with similar 6-5 records, but the Dragons are a battle-tested squad after facing the likes of Armwood, Jesuit and Plant City.

With the way quarterfinal games went last week, another low-scoring affair could be coming at Lakewood.

Jefferson senior quarterback Tyler Thomas has thrown for 1,764 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 371 yards and another eight scores. No. 1 will be the Spartans’ top concern Friday night.

The winner moves on to play either No. 2 Jesuit or No. 6 Immokalee. A Lakewood win would result in traveling to Jesuit or hosting Immokalee.

Class 3A: No. 6 Calvary Christian (6-5) at No. 2 Berkeley Prep (6-3)

Calvary’s playing some of its best ball of the season at the right time and showed it last week by upsetting No. 3 Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, 34-31.

The Warriors won their first-ever playoff game last season and will try to up the ante Friday by making their first region final appearance. Standing in the way is Berkeley Prep. The Buccaneers edged Calvary 14-7 way back in Week 2, but the Warriors also lost to Cardinal Mooney in the regular season, 34-22.

Berkeley Prep reeled off five straight wins before losing its regular-season finale against Class 7A Sickles, 20-7.

The Calvary offense can put up some points, led by quarterback Harold Cook (2,218 yards and 26 touchdowns) and running back Jordan Niles (1,098 yards and eight touchdowns).

If the Warriors can notch their fourth win in five games they’ll either head down the road to No. 1 Clearwater Central Catholic or across the bay to No. 4 Tampa Catholic.

Class 3A: No. 4 Tampa Catholic (8-3) at No. 1 Clearwater Central Catholic (10-0)

Undefeated CCC is Pinellas County’s best team this season and they head into Friday night rested up to host Tampa Catholic.

The Marauders took out the Crusaders 34-14 on Sept. 7 but did need a 13-point fourth quarter to put the game to bed.

While CCC is the definite favorite, Tampa Catholic is no slouch this year. The Crusaders defense has posted five shutouts and played well against better competition.

CCC, however, is winning by an average score of 41-13. Powering that potent offense is senior quarterback Rory Hicks (1,762 yards and 14 touchdowns) and senior running back Casey Levy (722 yards and 10 touchdowns). Including Levy and Hicks, CCC has gotten touchdown runs from eight different ball carriers, including nine from freshman Melvin Jordan, seven from sophomore Makkah Jordan and six from senior Jerjuan Newton. The latter leads the team in receiving with 844 yards and five scores on 50 receptions.

As mentioned, the winner gets either Calvary or Berkeley in the Class 3A Region 3 final. CCC would host both potential opponents.

Class 2A: No. 5 Cambridge Christian (4-7) at No. 1 Admiral Farragut (8-1)

Farragut’s put together its best season since going 10-2 in 2015. That campaign ended with a gut-wrenching 36-32 defeat against Cambridge Christian in the region finals after the Lancers flipped an 18-point second-half deficit.

The Blue Jackets program gets a shot at redemption Friday night, hosting the Lancers after last week’s bye.

Farragut enters the postseason as the second-ranked team in Class 2A, according to MaxPreps.com, and has been crushing everyone on its schedule not named Lakeland Victory Christian Academy (No. 4 in Class 2A). The Blue Jackets’ 10-3 loss to Victory Christion on Sept. 13 was the only time their defense allowed a team to reach double-digits in points scored. Farragut’s held its nine opponents to just 39 points all season.

It’s not just defense, either. The Blue Jackets are posting nearly 38 points a night.

Cambridge’s 4-7 record and minus-4 point differential may not look like much, but eight of their 11 games this season have come against playoff qualifiers, including last week’s first-round game against Fort Myers Evangelical Christian. The Lancers rolled to a 54-7 victory Friday.

This week’s winner will get either No. 2 Seffner Christian or No. 3 Carrollwood Day. Farragut would host either opponent.