SARASOTA -- Palmetto nothched its fifth-straight playoff ticket Friday night with a victory emblematic of its season:
A rough start followed by an explosion of opportunistic plays and offense.
The Tigers blitzed past Sarasota 42-13 in a Class 7A-District 10 affair and guaranteed themselves at least one more game when the Region 3 playoffs begin Nov. 14.
Their 0-3 start a thing of the past, the Tigers (3-4, 3-0) have outscored their first three district opponents 94-20 and head to Braden River next week for the District 10 title and the first-round home game that comes with it.
"We knew everybody was doubting us because of our record. We knew what we could do," said wide receiver Simon Williams, who hauled in an 11-yard touchdown during the Tigers' 35-point second quarter. "We practiced hard, came out every day and worked hard. We're showing everyone what we can do now."
After fumbling twice and watching the Sailors turn a 4th-and-10 into a screen pass to Tyler Thirion that went for a 28-yard score (a 62-yard screen to Azavion Smith brought the Tigers even), Palmetto blew open Friday's game by scoring five touchdowns in the final 10 minutes of the first half.
Quincy Washington ran in the first two to give the Tigers a 21-7 lead four minutes, 37 seconds before the break. A strong stand and a personal foul penalty gave Palmetto the ball on the Sailors' 29, which led to quarterback Jack Allison (164 passing yards, three touchdowns) connecting with a stretching Williams in the back corner of the end zone.
It was 28-7 Palmetto with 1:39 remaining, but the Tigers weren't done. Sarasota punted on its next possession but was called for holding, and Palmetto opted for a re-kick. The Tigers blocked the ensuing punt and Elso Garcia-Vallejo recovered it the end zone.
And after Sarasota fumbled early in its next drive, Allison hit Dearius Washington for a 27-yard scoring strike to trigger a running clock for the entire second half.
"You've got to trust one another. No matter what goes wrong, we're going to right the ship," said coach Dave Marino. "And the kids trust in the coaches and the coaches trust in the kids, and that's what was evident (Friday). It just epitomized, again, the team culture that we've built here."
The Sailors took a huge hit early in the first quarter when their leading tailback, Justin Austin, left with an injury. Sarasota finished with minus-3 rushing yards but quarterback Xakari Hawkins threw for 164 yards.
Quincy Washington finished with 78 rushing yards on 14 attempts for the Tigers, who didn't run many plays after the half because of the running clock.
Next up: A trip to East Manatee to battle the Pirates for a championship.
"It's going to be a fun atmosphere, the place is going to be packed and it's what every kid dreams of - to play in a big game like that," Marino said. "This is going to be a huge game, and I don't want to compare it to the state championship, but it really is going to be a fun atmosphere."