Hounds deny Eagles a playoff berth, 34-15
By J. Daniel Pearson
For the News-Gazette
After a stunning 36-30 come-from-behind win over Mulberry last week, Poinciana needed to beat 2-6 Auburndale at home Friday to clinch their first state playoff since 2000.
For the first six minutes of the game, the Eagles appeared headed in that direction by jumping out to a 9-0 lead. But Auburndale would spoil the party by scoring 27 unanswered points in rolling to a 34-15 win.
“We put ourselves in great position with the win last week,” Poinciana Head Coach Jeff Mathis said. “But we stressed all week to our kids that you have to earn your way into the playoffs. I thought our team was certainly good enough to win tonight, but the bottom line is Auburndale earned it and we didn’t.”
Things could not have started any better for the Eagles. After a solid kickoff return, quarterback Jonathan Lindstrom hit Joshua Lopez on a quick slant on the game’s second play from scrimmage. Lopez broke one tackle and outran the defense for a 60-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles forced a fumble and Darian Dickson recovered on the Bloodhounds’ 40-yard line. Lindstrom then completed a 38-yard pass to Dickson down to the 2-yard line, but the Eagles settled for a field goal and a 9-0 lead.
The Eagles got a quick stop on defense, but their next possession ended in a short 15-yard punt that was returned 20 yards to set up Auburndale at the Eagle 25-yard line. QB Tyler Wilkerson capped a five-play drive with a 1-yard run on 4th down to close the gap to 9-7.
Auburndale got the ball back on a fumble five plays later and running back Artavis Pearle gave the Hounds the lead for good on a 17-yard touchdown run. On the drive, Pearle carried the ball four straight times for 54 yards.
Another short punt and a 27-yard return set up Auburndale again in great field position at the Poinciana 31. Pearle made it a 20-9 game with a 26-yard touchdown run.
For the game, Pearle carried 24 times for 194 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Eagles had a chance to get back into the game before halftime. Taking over on the 30 with less than two minutes to go, Lindstrom hit Lopez on a 34-yard pass and run and then ripped off 26 yards on a keeper to get Poinciana down to the Auburndale 10-yard line. A 5-yard completion to Lopez set up a third and goal from the 5, but a turnover ended the threat.
“The game was lost in the second quarter,” Mathis said. “They started blitzing us heavily and we had a really hard time picking it up. On offense, Auburndale runs a Wing-T and although it is a pretty simple offense to run, it’s difficult to prepare for. You have to stay disciplined in your gaps and we just over-ran a lot of plays and opened up big holes for their backs.”
Auburndale extended the lead to 27-9 after a 17-yard touchdown pass from Wilkerson to Jessie Britt. The drive covered 13-plays and more than nine minutes of clock time. In the drive, the Bloodhounds overcame 26-yards in penalties and covered two third down plays and a fourth-and-2.
Lindstrom, who completed 12 of 29 passes for 213 yards, capped the Eagles scoring with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Lopez at the 8:13 mark of the fourth quarter to make it 27-15. The Eagles got a defensive stop with 2:55 remaining, but any chance of a second straight miracle comeback quickly ended when Tarren Marsielle jumped a bubble screen and returned it seven yards for a touchdown and the 34-15 final.
Auburndale rushed for 236 yards and also had touchdown runs of 93 and 71 yards wiped out by holding calls. Wilkerson finished the game 6-of-9 for 81 yards and accounted for two touchdowns. Lopez had six catches for 136 yards and two scores for the Eagles.
With the win, the Bloodhounds (3-6, 3-1) qualify for the playoffs as District 10 runner-up. Poinciana (4-5, 2-2) is out of playoff contention but concludes its 2013 season with a rivalry game at Liberty next Friday.