FORT LAUDERDALE – Random thoughts after Lake Wales’ 32-30 instspannt clspanssic win over Mainland in the Class 3S championship game on Friday afternoon.
Suburban championships have delivered
It’s a really small sample size, but the FHSAA has to be thrilled with how exciting the suburban games have been so far this season.
Cocoa won an epic 38-31 overtime thriller against Florida High last week, which was the first overtime championship in a dozen years and certainly one of the best games to be played during that time period.
Lspanke Wspanles-Mspaninlspannd had two lead changes in the fourth quarter and had fans on the edge of their seats until the final whistle.
Even the Class 1S game, a 21-3 win by Naples-First Baptist over Trinity Catholic saw a significantly undersized Lions defense handle a vaunted Celtics offensive line that had pounded teams all season.
Heading into Saturday’s Class 4S final between Lakeland and Venice, the average margin of victory in the Suburban championships is nine points. The average margin of victory in last year’s eight state championships: 17.4 points.
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Does this mean Metro and Suburban is working?
That completely depends on your definition of working.
If you want to see a balanced playing field? Absolutely. The Suburban games have been consistently close, exciting games.
If you have another definition, probably not. The reality is that Metro/Suburban answered some issues, but not all of them. The format has one more year before it will be back up for a vote.
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The officiating was … interesting
It’s not good that we’re a few paragraphs into takeaways from the state championship game and the officials are getting mentioned. The officials made a couple massive calls and both of them were terrible.
Lake Wales clearly forced a fumble on Mainland’s first play from scrimmage – the ball was on the ground while the Mainland runner was still standing – but one official immediately ruled it down by contact.
After a lengthy discussion, the officials said it was an inadvertent whistle and said the down would be replayed. Mainland ended up driving down the field and kicking a field goal.
Late in the fourth quarter, with Lake Wales holding on to a two-point lead, the Highlanders attempted a third-down pass which was incomplete. It would have forced Lake Wales to punt with nearly two minutes left on the clock.
Instead, the officials called what would best be described as a phantom hold on the defensive back. It was a bad call. The defensive back did have his hand on the wide receiver’s shoulder as he leapt for an overthrown ball, but that isn’t holding. That call allowed Lake Wales to all but run out the clock.
Human error is part of the equation, but the officiating should be elite in the state championship game.
These calls, along with last year’s pick-six by Venice’s Damon Wilson when he dropped the ball but was given a touchdown, should not happen on the biggest stage.
Just as interesting side note, the fumble on the first play was included in the official statistics as a fumble even though the down was replayed, which means it never happened.
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Time for booth reviews?
The Florida High School Athletic Association should really consider some level of instant replay for the state championship.
That will sound sacrilegious to some, and I respect that. But the officials should be allowed to look at close plays, like touchdowns and turnovers, and make sure they got it right.
Multiple officials looked at the fumble replay during their conversation in the first quarter before saying it was an inadvertent whistle.
In the fourth quarter, Mainland’s Demarcus Creecy appeared to get into the end zone but was ruled down at the 1. Mainland scored two plays later … but almost a minute had ticked off the clock first.
It’s not just this game – or this state either.
A video of Sandy Creek’s 21-17 win over Cedar Grove in a Georgia state championship last week went viral as it appeared the runner who scored the game-winning touchdown was at least a yard short of the end zone. Instant replay is worth a discussion.
Lake Wales’ ability to break tackles was huge
Lake Wales running back Corey Harris, quarterback Trent Grotjan and wide receivers Xavier Marlow, Carlos Mitchell and Diyantae Landrum all were able to extend plays and pick up key yardage after initial contact and that had a big impact.
Mainland running back Ajai Harrell is one of the most complete backs in the state and he showed why again Friday. The senior had 24 carries for 195 yards and three touchdowns – all in the second half – and once again lead the Bucs with nine catches for 139 yards. He finished the game with 353 all-purpose yards on 35 touches.
Lake Wales cornerback Philipp Davis had a game he won’t soon forget. The senior intercepted two passes in the end zone in the first half and came very, very close to a third on a wide receiver pass early in the first quarter.
Mainland scored 30 points against a Lake Wales team that had allowed 67 points in its first 14 games. The Highlanders had allowed a total of 26 points in its first four postseason games.