Three Brevard County high school football teams remain in the playoffs, and three coaches whose teams played against them like their chances on Friday.
Cocoa will play Miami Booker T. Washington in the state semifinal round for the sixth year in a row, while Viera and Melbourne Central Catholic face new challenges. All three teams play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. For the Tigers and Hustlers, a win will earn a spot in a state championship game.
BTW has beaten Cocoa five years in a row, but the last game played at Cocoa Stadium came down to a 2-point conversion. Rockledge coach Wayne Younger faced the Tigers in Week 11 of the regular season, and he thought the Cocoa linemen were key to the team’s success.
“I think up front, on both sides of the ball, they’re a tough bunch,” Younger said. “Even though they had Jawaan Taylor (now a Florida Gators lineman) last year, this is a very strong line.”
Cocoa also has more offensive weapons on the roster than it has had in a few years, but Younger pointed to the line of scrimmage as the key to beating the defending champion Tornadoes in the 4A playoff bracket.
“In football, if you can control the line of scrimmage, you’re going to give yourself a good chance of winning,” he said.
Martin County coach Chuck Kenyon’s Tigers played Viera twice this year and twice last year, when the Hawks went all the way to the 7A final. He saw differences in the 2015 and 2016 teams, but he was complimentary of both.
“They’re good at what they do. They play with a hunger in them,” he said. “I think they’re still firing on all cylinders. They did a really good job on getting where they wanted to be, and I think now they’re maintaining that.”
Last year’s Hawks defeated Lakeland in a regional final and then won their state semifinal game in Lake City against favored Columbia. This year won’t be easier.
“Tampa Plant is a very tough place to go in and play, but at this stage of the game, everybody is on a level playing field. Obviously, to go up to Lake City last year and win in that environment, they’re battle-tested.”
Holy Trinity coach Nate Hooks, whose Tigers play MCC each year, labeled Clearwater Central Catholic as a favorite to make the state final before the season began, so he took note of the Hustlers’ 69-62, nine-overtime win from last week.
“To beat Clearwater Central Catholic is impressive,” he said. “That team is loaded. I thought Clearwater was the hump they had to get over.”
This week’s 3A semifinal opponent, Chaminade-Madonna, also got over a sizeable hump, eliminating No. 1 Oxbridge Academy, but Hooks gave the Hustlers a shot at moving on again.
“I think they have a chance,” he said.
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Friday’s high school football games
All games at 7:30 p.m.
Viera at Tampa Plant
Miami BTW at Cocoa
Chaminade-Madonna at Melbourne Central Catholic
All games at 7:30 tonight.
Viera (9-2) at Tampa Plant (11-0)
Class 7A regional final
Playoff path: The Hawks have wins over East River (41-0) and Martin County (53-45), both at home. The Panthers also have two home playoff wins, over Winter Haven (59-6) and Lakeland (25-21).
Game notes: Viera advanced to last year’s 7A final despite not having won a postseason game before 2015. Plant went to a state final five of six years from 2006 through 2011 and won titles in 2006 (4A), ’08 (4A), ’09 (5A) and ’11 (8A). Since ’06, Plant is 23-1 at home in the playoffs, losing only to Apopka in 2013.
Winner gets: Winner of Bartram Trail at Robert E. Lee game.
Booker T. Washington (9-3) at Cocoa (9-1)
Class 4A state semifinal
Playoff path: The Tornadoes, from Miami, won home games against Clewiston (36-7) and Miami Edison (44-14). The Tigers have home playoff wins over Bishop Verot (64-0) and Orlando Jones (36-30).
Game notes: Miami BTW has beaten Cocoa in the state semifinal round five years in a row. Last year in Miami, BTW defeated Cocoa 33-14. The last time the game was played at Cocoa Stadium, the Tornadoes won 14-12. BTW has won the last four state titles, and Cocoa won three from 2008-10, meaning one of the two has won a championship in seven of the past eight years.
Winner gets: A spot in the state final against the winner of the South Sumter-Jacksonville Bolles game.
Chaminade-Madonna (9-3) at Melbourne Central Catholic (11-0)
Class 3A state semifinal
Playoff path: The Lions won home playoff games against Cardinal Newman (42-0) and top-ranked Oxbridge Academy (30-13). The Hustlers won home games over Cardinal Mooney (56-34) and, in nine overtimes, Clearwater Central Catholic (69-62).
Game notes: MCC has doubled its all-time playoff win total this year with those games. Chaminade advanced to its first state semi since 2009. The school won state titles in 2A in 2003 and ’05. In last week’s nine-overtime game, MCC and CCC combined for 89 points after regulation ended, more than double the 42 they combined to score in the first four quarters.
Winner gets: A spot in the state final against either Berkeley Prep or Jacksonville Trinity Christian.