By STEVE JACKSON
And then there was one!
Only one of five South Shore high school football teams remains in the hunt for a Florida state title - Sumner High. The Stingrays eliminated the 7-4 Riverview Sharks last Friday in a first round playoff match. Now the 10-1 Stingrays host the 9-2 Durant Cougars in a Nov.17 re-match to see which team ends this season and which moves on to the third round of playoffs on Nov. 24.
East Bay was also sent home after a 25-14 loss at Largo last Friday. Largo jumped out to a 12-0 lead early, but East Bay fought back. Late in the second quarter, with Largo threatening to add to its margin, senior Indians defender Miles Thompson came up with a big pick-six for 80 yards. The halftime lead was cut to a manageble 12-7 with Kaydien Saul’s first of two PAT kicks. A William Boyd 23 yard TD pass to Jose Hernandez cut the lead to 19-14 at the end of the third quarter. An East Bay fumble gave Largo a short field in the early fourth quarter. Largo capitalized by punching the pigskin in the end zone and expanding the lead to 25-14. No more scoring took place, and the game, along with East Bay’s season, was over.
East Bay hung in with Largo despite having limited offensive stats. The Indians only gained 90 yards rushing and only 89 passing in the playoff loss. East Bay record-setting rusher senior Jaelin Sneed was held to 52 yards on 12 carries. Junior quarterback William Boyd completed seven of fourteen passes.
For Head Coach Mike Gottman, it was a tough conclusion for an 8-3 year. But for East Bay this year marked the second season in a row for a district championship – the first time ever East Bay has accomplished back-to-back district championships.
For East Bay and Coach Gottman, all eyes now turn to 2024 as the Indians only graduate two starters on offense. Defensively, however, East Bay has a mammoth chore as the Indians graduate the entire starting defensive line.
Coach Gottman told his returning squad members that they needed to start in January preparing for next season. The veteran is looking forward to his fourth straight winning season at East Bay.