CLASS 5A-REGION 3 QUARTERFINALPalmetto (8-2) at Auburndale (6-4)
Time: 7 p.m. Friday
The scoop: This is a rematch of last year's 5A-3 quarterfinal. ... Palmetto, reeling from two late season losses, enters as a district runner-up and faces a vastly improved Auburndale group that was blasted 49-0 during the Tigers' stirring 5A semifinal run in 2011. ... The Bloodhounds unveiled a new spread offense this season, and defeated Lake Wales 21-0 two weeks ago to claim the 5A-District 9 title and the right to host a playoff game with a balanced attack. ... However, Auburndale, who have won six of seven since an 0-3 start, possesses three players with more than 500 rushing yards, while quarterback Brett Taylor has only thrown for 315 yards this season showcasing a more run-heavy spread offense that has a Wing-T built in. ... Auburndale's defense has been stout since those three early season losses, pitching two shutouts and allowing fewer than 10 points in six of the past seven games. ... Palmetto's defense, which has looked spotty at times this fall, must contain Auburndale's running attack. The Tigers, who enter the postseason for a third straight year under head coach Dave Marino, also need to execute the plan that gave them a victory over Wauchula Hardee and Arcadia DeSoto this season both of those district opponents featured run-first, pass-at last resort offenses. Palmetto's offense is balanced, with a bevy of talented of receivers for quarterback Chris Tuten to choose from in Cory Crawford (Temple commit), E.J. Burston (several offers including FIU) and Shaq Harris (several offers included Toledo) and Josh Hicks (Rutgers commit) doing damage from the backfield.
Coach: Kenny Grantham, fourth year, 15-27
District: 5A-9 champion
Players to watch: Charles Taylor, sr., RB (120 attempts, 655 rushing yards, 7 TDs); Derwin James, soph., RB (641 rushing yards, 7 TDs, verbally committed to Florida State); Wilbur Cooper, soph., RB/WR (596 rushing yards, 6 TDs); Wilshonn Jefferson, sr., DE (4 sacks, 27 tackles); Daryl Henry, sr., WR/DB (3 INTs).
Coach: Dave Marino, third year, 26-9
District: 5A-10 runner-up
Players to watch: Cory Crawford, sr., WR (669 rushing yards, 254 receiving yards, 8 TDs, verbally committed to Temple); Josh Hicks, jr., RB (594 rushing yards, six TDs, verbally committed to Rutgers); Shaq Harris, sr., WR (26 receptions, 463 yards, 9 TDs); Josh Layhew, sr., DE, (10 sacks, 39 solo tackles, 9 tackles for a loss, fumble recovery, safety).
Prediction: Palmetto 21, Auburndale 20
-- Jason Dill, Herald sports writer