Class 7A State Semifinals: First Coast Takes Advantage of Costly Lakeland Turnovers
Sat. December 10, 2011 at 12:26 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
Lakeland quarterback Raheeme Morris is tackled by First Coast defenders. (Photo by BRUCE LIPSKY | JACKSONVILLE TIMES UNION)
By MIKE COBB
JACKSONVILLE | After losing in the state semifinals to Tampa Plant the last two years, Lakeland lineman Evan Goodman felt good about the Dreadnaughts breaking that streak Friday night in the Class 7A semifinals.
“I thought, ‘Third time’s a charm,’” Goodman said.
It didn’t quite turn out that way. Jacksonville First Coast, ranked No. 1 in Class 7A, used a handful of big plays and took advantage of a couple of costly Lakeland turnovers to beat the No. 2-ranked Dreadnaughts, 24-14, and earn a berth in next Friday’s Class 7A state championship game.
The 13-0 Buccaneers will play Bradenton Manatee, a 19-14 winner over Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer. Lakeland closes out its season with a 13-1 record and a semifinal loss for the third straight season.
“Our kids played hard all year and I’m proud of them for that,” Lakeland coach Bill Castle said. “You just can’t make the mistakes we made tonight and expect to come out of here. They have a lot of athletes, and they have a good team.”
The Dreadnaughts outgained First Coast 293-198, but two lost fumbles led to 14 First Coast points.
The first helped give First Coast a lead it never lost. The second, early in the fourth quarter, gave them a 10-point lead at a point when Lakeland looked like it might at least tie the game. First Coast linebacker Reggie Northrup returned the second fumble 77 yards for a touchdown that put the Buccanaeers up, 24-14, with 9:07 left in the game.
“That’s the whole thing we wanted to work on was no turnovers,” said Lakeland running back Taylor Placides, who lost the first fumble. “You can’t turn the ball over and make mistakes. We turned the ball over and that’s what hurt us in the long run.”
Placides ran for 66 yards on 12 carries, including a 38-yarder to open the game and kick-start an 85-yard touchdown drive for the Dreadnaughts. Raheeme Dumas scored to give Lakeland an early 7-0 lead.
First Coast’s freshman quarterback, DeAndre Johnson, answered with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Brooks to make it 7-7. On Lakeland’s first play after the kickoff, a fumble by Placides at Dreadnaught 17 late set up an 8-yard run by Johnson that made it 14-7.
Compounding the turnover was a penalty that wiped out an interception at the goal line by Tre Dempsey. Instead of Lakeland’s ball, it was third-and-2 at the 8 for First Coast.
Despite trailing at the half, the Dreadnaughts appeared to be in good shape starting the second half by stopping First Coast on its first two possessions. The Dreadnaughts also got a break on an inadvertent whistle that negated a muffed punt.
That began the Lakeland possession that ended with First Coast taking a 10-point lead. The Dreadnaughts picked up a pair of first downs and got as close as the Buccaneer 13 before a pair of penalties left them in a third-and 15 at the 24.
Looking to make a play, Dumas was scrambling when he was hit by First Coast defensive linemen Seyvon Lowry and Malachi Evans and fumbled. The ball bounced into the hands of Buccaneer linebacker Reggie Northrup, who broke a tackle, eluded another and went 77 yards for a touchdown that put First Coast up, 24-14.
“It was a rough time for us, it was good for them,” Northrup said of Lakeland’s drive up to that point. “When our D-lineman made a big hit and the fumble came, I just had to make a big play. I had to scoot the ball up. I just had the willpower that I wasn’t going to get tackled.”
Northrup was right. Up to that point, Lakeland was feeling pretty good, said Goodman.
“I was like, ‘We’re about to win this game,’ ” Goodman said “We lost in the semifinals two times in a row to Plant. I thought ‘Third time’s a charm.’ ”
Castle refused to put the loss on any one or two plays.
“I’m not going to single out any one or two plays in this game. We’ve won together as a family. Tonight, we lost one.” he said. “The biggest thing is, I’m just proud of the season our kids had. They’ve worked hard this year and I’m proud of them."