Harmony flag football defense

Adrianna Rodriguez (making flag pull), who had an interception against Fort Pierce Westwood, and Mackenzie Kish (2) were parts of a superior Longhorns defense in the regional playoffs.

The Harmony Longhorns qualified for the Class A state championship Final Four Monday with a 6-0 double overtime win over Fort Pierce Westwood.

The Longhorns (14-2), ranked No. 6 in Class A and No. 15 overall by FloridaHSFootball.com, make their third trip to the state tournament in three years, and will play on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Boca Raton Community High School. They’ll take on either Fort Lauderdale Dillard or Miami Edison (No. 7/16), who play their regional final today (Tuesday) at 4 p.m.

Coach Paul Strauch called Monday, and a 13-7 win over Daytona Beach Seabreeze Thursday at home in the regional semifinals, a pair of great defensive efforts.

“We were even one or two plays away from a shutout against Seabreeze,” he said. “We had some film (on Westwood), and were able to go over a couple of things and their offensive look in practice Friday, and we did a quick walk-through Monday before we got on the bus down there Monday. So, especially defensive, we were without a doubt prepared. Our coaches had a plan. We were in the right spots and coverages at the right times. They had a couple big plays, but we were in the right spots, and we made bigger plays at the goal line.”

Despite not scoring in regulation time, Harmony took care of the ball offensively, Strauch said, committing its only turnover at the goal line on a fourth-and-goal interception.

“Baylee (Richards) tried to fire the ball through a small window, but you have to there in that spot,” Strauch said. “(Westwood’s) speed covered a lot of ground on defense.”

The Longhorn defense, like it had all game, stopped the Panthers in the first overtime, when the ball is spotted at the 10-yard line and the offense has four tries to score like in 11-man football, but the offense couldn’t cash in. But it went right back on the field, and on third down Richards hit Reinna Scott on a five-yard slant pattern to finally find the end zone.

But Harmony failed to convert the extra point, meaning the defense would have to hold strong. Aubrey White and Ty Taylor broke up passes on second and third down, and the defense provided no windows for the Westwood offense to get a fourth-down pass in the end zone into, and the throw fell harmlessly incomplete.

In the 13-7 win over Seabreeze on Thursday, a game delayed in the first quarter by lightning, Richards hooked up on a pair of touchdown passes to Bryn Hudson that were set up by connections with Jenna Butcofski.

In its last trip to the state tournament in 2016, Harmony defeated Coconut Creek in the semifinals before losing to Tampa Robinson, a legacy program when it comes to Florida flag football, in the championship game.

“Bryn’s the only one who has experience from that, we have a lot of girls who haven’t been in that position,” Strauch said. “But we’re going to be prepared. We’ve got a bunch of kids who are excited about Saturday but are extremely focused.”

BULLDOGS CAN'T SOLVE RIVERVIEW RIDDLE IN CLASS 2A: St. Cloud (12-2), the Orange Belt Conference champions, had to battle Mother Nature and Riverview (13-1), ranked No. 1 in Class 2A and No. 2 overall, and fell, 32-0, Thursday, in its first regional playoff game since 2016. St. Cloud was No. 9 and 14 entering the week.

"We faced a solid quarterback with an amazing arm and receivers with great hands," Bulldogs first-year coach Shawn Beck said."We couldn't get anything going after a 90-minute rain delay getting started, but we still had a great season and I'm proud of the team and coaches."