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November 17, 2012

Fletcher stuns Lake Brantley, DP advances

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ORLANDO -- 8A #1 Dr. Phillips (11-0) continues to thrive off of its opportunistic defense, as senior Matt Milano and the Panthers fended off a fierce quick passing game by visiting Tampa Wharton (8-3) en route to a 28-15 win at Bill Spoone Stadium.

The win moves Dr. Phillips on to the second round of the 8A state playoffs, something DP has done for seven consecutive seasons, and puts the national spotlight on a showdown with nationally ranked Tampa Plant (10-1) next week.

Milano would make his presence felt early, intercepting Wharton's first play from scrimmage and setting Dr. Phillips up at the 5 yard line to start the game.

Senior running back Eric Harrell wasted no time finding pay dirt soon after, and Dr. Phillips latched on to a 7-0 lead mid way through the first quarter.

Wharton's offense would threaten on its next drive with Keith Hopkins and Deon Sampson hauling in passes deep in Dr. Phillips territory, but the Panther defense held strong, stuffing Vernon Hargreaves III on a fourth and goal rushing attempt from the 4 yard line to give the Panthers possession with the 7-0 lead intact.

Dr. Phillips would hold Wharton out of the end zone again later in the half as Wildcat QB Chase Litton and company drove to the DP five before being denied. With some luck and a clutch defensive performance, Dr. Phillips held a 7-3 halftime lead.

Wharton received the ball to start the second half, but Milano turned the tide soon after with his second interception of the game, setting Dr. Phillips up near midfield.

One play later, big-play wide receiver Roderick Proctor hauled in a 43 yard touchdown pass to put the Panthers ahead, 14-3.

That lead would be short-lived, as Auden Tate hauled in a touchdown reception from Litton just before the start of the fourth quarter to cut DP's lead to 14-9 with twelve minutes left on the clock.

That's where Roderick Proctor stepped in, taking a Wharton punt for a crazy cross-field punt return to give Dr. Phillips possession at the 22. Eric Harrell would then run it in from four yards out, one of three touchdowns on the game for the senior, giving the Panthers a comfortable 21-9 lead.

Both teams added touchdowns and Wharton would threaten late, but another Dr. Phillips interception sealed the deal with less than a minute remaining for the 28-15 final.

Wharton played a tough game but was never able to get away from Dr. Phillips' stingy defensive line, and that was the difference on this night. Kenderson Obas led the defensive unit with three sacks and a forced fumble, while the unit as a whole thwarted three red zone attempts for zero points - certainly the key stat of the game.

Moving forward, Dr. Phillips has finally arrived at its dream match-up with Tampa Plant (10-1). These two teams are just about unanimous state title picks, so make sure to keep an eye on this one. The difference from last year's 49-13 Plant win - this one is in Orlando. Get there early, folks.

Fletcher stuns Lake Brantley - Again

Lake Brantley (9-2) can't be too fond of the Senators from Neptune Beach.

Last year, Fletcher (10-1) snapped Lake Brantley's undefeated season - this year, they erased what was looked at as a favorable playoff draw for the storied Patriot program.

Fletcher took an early 10-0 lead and stretched the lead to 17-7 in the second quarter, but Lake Brantley was able to claw back and get to within three at 17-14 in the third quarter on a long Zack Krider touchdown reception.

Krider again struck pay dirt to put the Patriots ahead 21-17 on an 87 yard touchdown run, but Fletcher's Jamari Smith added to his 200+ yard rushing night from 31 yards out to put Fletcher back ahead, 24-21.

Lake Brantley was in position to win late but had to settle for a field goal attempt. The kick sailed wide, sealing a thrilling 24-21 win for Neptune Beach Fletcher.

Fletcher will now move on to play Sanford-Seminole (7-4), where they will be clear favorites, and would meet the winner of Apopka (9-2) and Timber Creek (10-1) for a shot at the final four the following week.

Other Scores and Notes

8A-1: Apopka 45, University 35

Apopka (9-2) is cruising after starting 1-2 with losses to Dr. Phillips and Olympia. Timber Creek (10-1) is their next opponent, and stud sophomore running back Jacques Patrick plays to their weakness - rush defense.

8A-1: Timber Creek 41, Olympia 21

This rematch was another 20-point win for Timber Creek. Olympia was very talented but injuries severely plagued them in the latter half of the season. As mentioned above, Timber Creek will face a red-hot Apopka team and is a slight favorite.

8A-2: Plant 48, Freedom 31

Freedom put up a very respectable fight but couldn't contain the Panthers athleticism. By comparison, Dr. Phillips was leading Freedom 27-7 late in the fourth quarter before the 27-14 final. Jeff Badet, Lee Grant and this senior class succeeded in making history at Freedom, a school that opened in 2001 and had only made the playoffs once (2005) prior to this season.

7A-2: Osceola 16, Lakeland 2

This is reminiscent of 2007, the year Osceola beat the L on its way to a state title appearance against St. Thomas Aquinas. As expected, this game was 0-0 late, as Lakeland has held all of its high-quality opponents to close ball games with good defense but a lacking offense. The Kowboys (11-0) got a field goal to go up 3-0, recovered a punt in the end zone to get to 9-0 and capped the win on a long Stafon McCray touchdown run for the 16-2 final.

6A-3: Mainland 49, Lake Gibson 42

This is a huge win for the Buccaneers (8-3), as Lake Gibson (10-1) was a popular final four pick among state pundits. Winter Haven (10-1) awaits next for Mainland, but with this win it seems the ceiling on the Bucs is unclear - they may be peaking at the right time.

Other Second Round Match Ups

7A-1: Oviedo vs Evans

Oviedo (10-1) beat Leesburg 34-31 in OT, while Evans (9-2) cruised 35-6 over Edgewater. Make no mistake - this deserves to be a second round match up. These two are among the best in Central Florida this year.

4A-3: Jones vs. Cocoa

Jones (7-4) is a very dangerous team, and Cocoa (9-2) is well aware. Cocoa escaped the Tigers 31-24 a couple of weeks ago, but this time a final four appearance is on the line. You've got to think Levonte Whitfield is drooling for a chance to showcase his speed in the rematch.


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