It wasn't easy. But then again, winning in the playoffs rarely is.
After cruising to a 60-3 win against Hernando (Brooksville) last week, the top-ranked Class 6A Purple Hurricanes struggled at home, carrying a 14-10 lead into the fourth quarter, before holding on for a 21-10 win over Vanguard (Ocala) in the Regional Semifinals.
Vanguard's Deltron Modican had an 8-yard scoring run with 9:01 to play in the third quarter to bring the Knights (6-6) within four, 14-10. The Knights had their chances in the final period but GHS (12-0) was able to make enough plays to win for the 29th time in its last 30 games at Citizen's Field.
"We played really bad," said GHS coach James Thomson. "But I told our team that great teams find a way to win regardless of how they are playing and that's what we did tonight."
Gainesville QB Mark Cato fumbled once, threw two interceptions, and he struggled to move the 'Canes through the air. However, running back Ralph Webb helped pick up the slack by rushing for over 100 yards on his two scoring carries.
The senior's first touchdown, a 72-yard run with 7:10 to play in the first quarter, gave the Hurricanes an early 7-0 lead. But it was his second TD run of the night, a 36-yard score with 2:18 to play, that put the game on ice. Webb finished the game with 174 yards on just 16 carries.
Gainesville will now host Armwood (Seffner), a 9-7 winner over Hillsborough (Tampa), in a rematch of last year's Regional Finals won by Armwood. However, this time the Hawks (9-3) have to travel.
"We played sloppy all the way around," added Thomson. "We can't expect to play like this next week and win."