By: Wells Dusenbury
Throughout the course of the regular season, the Seminole Ridge passing game, has endured a fair share of criticism. Junior quarterback Zach DeCosta took the brunt of it as questions are as to whether the Hawks could make enough plays through the air to make a playoff push.
DeCosta put those criticisms to rest on Friday night.
Against Park Vista in the 8A Regional Finals, the junior threw for 4 touchdown passes (including the game-winner with 18 seconds left) and no interceptions during the Hawks 35-31 win.
The game stood in marked contrast to his first career start against the Cobras, in which he threw 3 interceptions during the Hawks 21-7 loss earlier this year in week 2.
Even more impressively, DeCosta showed the ability to stretch the field with his throws.
Of his four touchdowns, three of the them went for over 40 yards. In the second quarter, he laid out a perfect deep ball to Silas Spearman for a 57-yard touchdown strike. Later in the third quarter, he laced a bullet 20 yards downfield right in stride to Pernell Rattray who took it 65 yards for the score.
Seminole Ridge was able to roll off six straight wins to end the regular season due to their dominant rushing game, but with a newfound aerial attack, the Hawks could be a legitimate playoff contender.
5 other thoughts
-Last year when Martin County upset heavy favorite Charlotte in the final minute of their Regional Quarterfinal match-up, most Fighting Tarpon fans figured the result to be a fluke. In fact, when the Tigers visited Charlotte again on Friday in the playoffs, the home crowd let them know from the get-go.
"They were yelling 'Fluke' in the audience," said Martin County running back Jermohn Queen. "We were pumped up and ready to make a statement."
The Tigers did just that on Friday night. Behind 352 rushing yards by Queen, Martin County stunned Charlotte for a second consecutive year on the road, this time defeating the Fighting Tarpons 35-32.
"One of the reporters over there said that they're probably not going to let me go into Charlotte County anymore," joked Martin County head coach Chuck Kenyon. "They're going to stop me at the district border."
For Martin County, their focus now turns to Ft. Pierce Central, who they'll face Friday in the 7A Regional Semifinals. The Cobras have had the Tigers number the past two years, knocking off the Tigers three times in that span by an average of 28 points per game. Despite those results, Queen is ready for another shot at Ft. Pierce Central.
"They're a great defense, no doubt, but I don't believe they're unstoppable," Queen said. "No one's unbeatable to me, so we're coming for them. That's all I can say.
-Another team that gets a shot at redemption this weekend will be Vero Beach. After knocking off Palm Harbor this part Friday, the Fighting Indians will make the nearly four-hour trek to East Lake in a re-match of last year's 8A Regional Quarterfinals.
Last year against East Lake, Vero Beach jumped out to an early lead, but wound up falling 41-22 against the eventually 8A State runner-up. Despite that loss, Vero Beach head coach Lenny Jankowski insists there's no revenge factor at play for his team.
You just try to take it game-by-game. It's been a year since we've played them," said Jankowski. "It usually doesn't come in to play."
While the Fighting Indians' passing offense has been spectacular this season behind quarterback Dalton Stokes, the biggest wild-card mark will be the run game. Since starting tailback Jason Pierre broke his leg against Centennial, Vero Beach has gone running back by committee, using a rotation of five guys. Roosevelt Sprule, M.J. McGriff, Spencer Chenowith, starting cornerback Dravious Wright and Avery Kizzy have all contributed to the backfield.
"Losing [Jason Pierre] was tough to deal with, but they've stepped up," Jankowski said. "It's worked out well. They all have different qualities that they bring."
-American Heritage has played a bevy of tough opponents this season, but their biggest challenge this season might come this Friday when they travel to Davie to take on University School. Rivals has the Suns as the 7th best team in the entire country, according to their high school rankings.
The Stallions (ranked 34th in the nation by Rivals) squared off against Univeristy in the playoffs last season, with Heritage defeating them 31-20 en route to a 3A State Championship. The Suns are a much improved squad in 2012 and this game could ultimately serve as a de-facto state championship game.
-After suffering an ankle sprain in the kickoff classic game against Treasure Coast, Ft. Pierce Central running back Marcus Levy has struggled for most of the season to regain the explosiveness that's made him such a dominant player.
Following his performance in the 7A Regional Quarterfinals, it looks like he's found it. Against Lemon Bay, Levy ran for a season high 218 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Cobras to a 41-13 win. Most importantly, Levy broke two long touchdown runs in the second half to put the game away.
Despite not having Levy at 100%, the Cobras have yet to lose this season, but if they want to potentially capture a state title, they'll need their star running back at his best.
-After all the doom-and-gloom following Glades Central's 0-4 start, the Raiders find themselves in the same position as last year: hosting a second round playoff game. In the 5A Regional Quarterfinals, Glades Central rolled past Rockledge 34-12, advancing to the second round.
Reigning Lou Groza Player of the Year Will Likely accounted for three touchdowns in what was probably his best performance to date this season. The Raiders will have a playoff re-match on Friday, with Central facing off against Merritt Island, who they defeated 35-0 last year in the 5A Regional Quarterfinals.
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