ST. PETERSBURG — What quickly appeared to be a St. Petersburg homecoming rout turned into a defensive struggle full of key stops and missed opportunities.
Only one score separated Class 8A-District 7 foes St. Pete and Palm Harbor University before the Green Devils pulled away with two late touchdowns for a 28-6 victory.
The victory gave St. Pete (4-1, 1-0) a huge leg up in securing one of the four-team league’s two playoff berths.
“We just watched a lot of film and knew we had to get after them,” St. Pete linebacker Riley Barr said after his three-sack performance with three sacks. “We got a big district win. We only need two but we want three, so we’ve just got to keep working.”
Running back Deangelo Reaves took the game’s first offensive snap to the house from 48 yards out and the Green Devils raced to a 14-0 first-quarter lead. But just as the game looked to be headed toward blowout territory, PHU (3-2, 0-1) got its bearings and locked down defensively.
St. Pete started seven of its 13 total drives in PHU’s half of the field, including six times in the second half. Despite that massive advantage, the Green Devils repeatedly failed to light the scoreboard. St. Pete missed four field goals and had a 15-yard Darius Miller touchdown run wiped out by a holding call when the score was still stuck at 14-6.
Reaves finally put the game out of reach with 3˝ minutes left, scooting around the left side from 6 yards out. St. Pete tacked on some style points with under a minute remaining with Jacquel Waller’s 1-yard run.
Barr and the St. Pete defense pieced together a dominant night for the home crowd, limiting PHU to 138 total yards on 59 plays — an average gain of 2.3 per play. The Green Devils’ lone blemish was Arkez Cason’s 6-yard touchdown reception from Tyler Kaminski in the second quarter that capped a lengthy 17-play march.
“In practice we can’t mimic that speed,” said PHU coach Matt LePain of his defense’s early troubles. “We don’t have that.”
Although the loss severely hinders the Hurricanes’ ability to reach the postseason, LePain isn’t ready to throw in the towel. “I need help now, but it ain’t over. And I’ll never think that.”
Palm Harbor 0 6 0 0 — 6
St. Pete 14 0 0 14 — 28
SP – Reaves 48 run (Bryant kick)
SP – Hart 21 pass from Tribolet (Bryant kick)
TS – Cason 6 pass from Kaminski (XP Failed)
SP – Reaves 6 run (Bryant kick)
SP – Waller 1 run (Bryant kick)