Posted: 3:24 pm Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Playoff Primer 2011: Clewiston gets juggernaut Cocoa in opening round 

By Jeff Greer

There are 16 playoff games on Friday involving teams from our area. In the buildup to the games, we’ll break down every matchup.

What a story Clewiston is, huh? The Tigers have a fantastic and rich history, one full of playoff wins and trips to the state finals. But the past few years haven’t been so hot. The Tigers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2008. They were 4-6 last year.

Before this season, Clewiston coach Joe Roth said, “We’re expecting Clewiston football to be more like how people know it.” This year’s team has accomplished that, finishing 7-3 and returning to the playoffs. But the Tigers face a huge challenge right off the bat: three-time state champ Cocoa.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. General admission is $8; reserved seating is $9.

CLEWISTON AT COCOA

CLEWISTON
Record: 7-3
How they qualified: Runner-up of District 6-4A.
Average points per game: 26.3.
Average points allowed per game: 16.4.
Offensive yardage totals: N/A.
Offensive stars: RB DeMarcus Terry (330 rushing yards, 5 TDs)
Defensive stars: DB/WR TeAngelo Ulett
Common opponents with Cocoa: None.

COCOA
Record: 6-4
How they qualified: Winner of District 5-4A.
Average points per game: 29.
Average points allowed per game: 11.1.
Offensive yardage totals: N/A.
Offensive stars: ATH Tarean Folston, ATH Antwan Lee
Defensive stars: LB Grady Redding, LB Mike Ferguson
Common opponents with Clewiston: None.

This isn’t the same Cocoa that beat Glades Central last year in the Class 2A state final, but it’s close. Cocoa has an elite defense, and that will take the Tigers far this postseason. Losing its entire offensive backfield hurt Cocoa, and that showed in its 0-3 start that produced 27 points on offense over those games. But once Cocoa started playing local teams, the wins started coming. Knowing coach John Wilkinson, he’d rather have challenged his team and taken a few lumps than go 10-0 and not be ready to play good football in the state and regional tournaments.

That said, Cocoa has shown that it can vulnerable on offense. The defense is there, pitching three shutouts this season. But the offense has fallen off a little. Still, it’s hard to look past strong wins over Merritt Island, Warner Christian and Lake Highland Prep. In other words, even the perceived vulnerability isn’t so bad. These guys are good. Very good.

Clewiston has won comfortably in its past three games, storming back for a two-touchdown win over Okeechobee last week after blowing out Lake Placid and LaBelle. But even with its impressive run through the district and seven wins this year, only one Clewiston victory came against a winning team. That win, a 20-7 decision against Glades Day, came with Glades Day star running back Kelvin Taylor on the bench with migraines. So, not exactly a ringing strength-of-schedule endorsement of Clewiston.

But what the Tigers do have is an all-around athlete in TeAngelo Ulett and 14 returning starters from last year. If the Tigers can avoid a slow start like the one they had against Okeechobee last week, and they can keep Cocoa’s defense on the field for long periods of time, maybe Clewiston can come back south with an upset. But don’t get me wrong: This is a major challenge, on the road, against a good, good team.

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