Posted: 9:08 am Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Playoff Primer 2011: University, American Heritage guaranteed to be a 3A slugfest 

By Matt Porter

There are six second-round playoff games Friday involving teams from our area. In the buildup to the games, we’ll break down every matchup.

University has dominated nearly every opponent this year. American Heritage has dominated nearly every opponent this year, with a notable exception: Glades Central, the No. 1 team in the area, which it fell to in overtime. The Stallions almost handed Glades Central its only loss in that game, and the next loss University suffers will be its first. Can the Stallions take it to the white-hot Suns?

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

Record: 11-0.
How they qualified: Winner of District 8-3A.
First round: Beat Cardinal Newman 37-15 in regional semifinals.
Points scored/allowed: 39.8/12.7
Yards gained rush/pass: 111.7/194.5
Offensive stars: QB Gunnar Holcombe (68.6% completion rate, 23 TDs, 3 INTs), RB Jordan Scarlett (566 rushing yards, 12 TDs), ATH MacGarrett Kings (675 total yards of offense, 14 TDs), OL Abraham “Nacho” Garcia (6-6, 340).
Defensive stars: DE Daniel Perry (6-7, 215), DT Maquedius Bain (6-5, 280).
Common opponents with American Heritage: Beat Cardinal Newman 37-15 on Nov. 18 (regional semifinals). American Heritage beat Cardinal Newman 40-13 on Oct. 28.

Record: 9-1.
First round: Beat Chaminade-Madonna 48-7 in regional semifinals.
How they qualified: Winner of District 7-3A.
Points scored/allowed: 40.4/9
Yards gained rush/pass: 278.1/111.3
Yards allowed rush/pass: 31.5/72.6
Offensive stars: QB Marcus Davis (54.2% completion rate, 711 passing yards, 9 TD, 1 INT), RB Greg Bryant (1,555 rushing yards, 19 TD), RB Jeremy Gaskins (1,217 rushing yards, 12 TD)
Defensive stars: LB Silmore Dallaway, LB Zach Slafsky, DE Blake Davis, DE Mike Wallace.
Common opponents with University: Beat Cardinal Newman 40-13 on Oct. 28. University beat Cardinal Newman 37-15 on Nov. 18 (regional semifinals).

It’s not easy finding an advantage for one team, but it may be up front.

American Heritage’s lines are big, fast and mean, with defensive ends Mike Wallace and Blake Davis doing damage, and center Connor Epstein and tackles Kelly Parfitt clearing space on offense. University has Louisville commit Abraham “Nacho” Garcia (6-6, 340) at offensive tackle, USF commit Daniel Perry (6-7, 215) at defensive end and defensive tackle Maquedius Bain (6-5, 280), a junior who has committed to FSU.

“They’re really big, I’ll say that,” American Heritage coach Doug Socha said. “They definitely have a size advantage.”

The Stallions are run-heavy with junior Greg Bryant, who has made a name for himself as one of the state’s best backs, alongside fellow 1,000-yard rusher Jeremy Gaskins and dual-threat quarterback Marcus Davis. The Suns love to throw out of their spread set. They get it done with all-purpose monster MacGarrett Kings, a Michigan State commit mostly used as a receiver, capable back Jordan Scarlett and rifle-armed QB Gunnar Holcombe.

Socha called University “a legitimate [11-0]” and said he was most impressed by the Suns’ regular-season win over Red Lion Christian Academy, a powerful school visiting from Delaware. The Suns grabbed a 54-42 win in that one. “Very impressive win in that it went back and forth,” Socha said. “Red Lion was loaded with athletes. University kept answering and they finally got some stops on defense.”

That’s a good indicator of how this game will go, one way or the other.

It certainly won’t be like the opening round, when University put a running clock on Cardinal Newman – 35-0 at halftime – and cruised to an easy win. The Suns have had more than a few easy wins this season. They’re used to being in control, so the Stallions need to assert themselves early. Having a home crowd will help, but University can beat you anywhere – and anywhere on the field.