Posted: 5:02 pm Thursday, December 5th, 2013
By Anthony Chiang
We have reached the state semifinals, and Dwyer and Palm Beach Gardens are the only teams left in the FHSAA playoffs. Both teams will be taking on schools from other counties.
So, in order to get to know the opposition this week, we asked each opposing team’s beat writer some questions. Here are their answers.
Bob Putnam from the Tampa Bay Times answers our questions about Dwyer’s opponent, Tarpon Springs-East Lake:
1. East Lake is averaging 45 points per game. What kind of offense does East Lake run and which players are the catalysts?
The Eagles run more of a pro style offense with a reliance on the run game. Weston Fordham is the main ball carrier with more than 1,000 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. Receivers Artavis Scott (Clemson) and George Campbell (Michigan) are both Div. I recruits and deep threats in the passing game. Quarterback Jake Hudson took over as the starter this season and had his best game against Port Charlotte last week with five touchdown passes.
2. Is East Lake a product of a soft schedule or is this team for real?
The Eagles have seven players who have either committed or have offers from Div. I schools. In the regular season, they beat three teams that made the playoffs, including a shutout against Largo, which has won nine straight district titles.
3. This is the first state semifinals appearance in school history for East Lake. What has stopped them in the past?
A tough schedule for starters. In 2011, the Eagles lost in overtime to eventual state champion Plant in the region final. Last year, East Lake got back to the region finals, only to lose to Orlando Dr. Phillips.
4. East Lake will win if …
it can win the battle up front. The Eagles have a veteran offensive line, led by Michigan recruit Mason Cole. They have averaged more than 200 yards rushing per game, which allows them to go on time-consuming drives. That will be needed to keep Dwyer’s high-powered offense off the field.
5. East Lake will lose if …
it loses the turnover battle. The Eagles are plus 13 in turnovers. But East Lake also has a knack for turning those turnovers into points with 10 touchdowns this season off interception or fumble returns. That has been a big factor in the Eagles jumping ahead to insurmountable leads.
Andre Fernandez from the Miami Herald answers our questions about Palm Beach Gardens’ opponent, Homestead-South Dade:
1. South Dade has allowed just 14 points over the first three rounds of the playoffs. What does the defense do best and what is its weakness?
It’s kind of a 50-50 balance of defending the run well and pressuring the quarterback. They do the latter very effectively. If you have a solid ground game, teams can probably do some damage on them.
2. On the other side of the ball, South Dade has not scored much over the past couple of weeks. What has been the reason for this?
The past two games were played in horrendous weather. Against Killian, they were literally playing on mud and against Gables it was a torrential downpour.
3. Will South Dade have to keep this a low scoring game to win?
Not necessarily, if it can establish its offense early and their QB Khalil Render is sharp. Harris Field can turn into a quagmire quick though if it rains.
4. South Dade will win if …
it can run the football effectively again with Johnnie Hankins and shut down the Gators’ running game.
5. South Dade will lose if …
they can’t run the ball and Render is under pressure constantly. He has made mistakes before in such circumstances.
About the Author
Anthony Chiang began his writing career in Gainesville at the University of Florida’s student-run newspaper. At The Independent Florida Alligator, he covered the school’s golf, volleyball, baseball, and football teams. The Miami native has also written for the Sun Sentinel and MLB.com, following the Tampa Bay Rays.