Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bears' Deep Run Will Continue at Home; Bartram Trail Forces Six Fleming Island Turnovers in Regional Final Rout

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bears' Deep Run Will Continue at Home; Bartram Trail Forces Six Fleming Island Turnovers in Regional Final Rout

Article excerpt

Byline: Justin Barney

No tears this year.

Bartram Trail left no doubt on Friday night, punching its ticket to the state semifinals with a 38-13 rout of visiting Fleming Island in the Region 1-7A finals.

It was the missing piece for a senior class that was stunned by Lee in this game last year, a 61-59 classic that went down to the final Hail Mary. Bartram used that loss as fuel to a 2017 season that opened with a nationally televised showdown against Cartersville, Ga., and now continues on in to December.

It marks the fourth time in the program's 17 years of playoff eligibility that the Bears have reached the state semifinals.

Still missing - a win in that game. The Bears will try and get that on Dec. 1 at home against Tampa Plant, which topped Lakeland 13-10 to give the Bears one more home game.

"It's a tribute to the young men we've got on this football team," said Bartram coach Darrell Sutherland. "It comes down to loving each other and they don't want this to be over yet."

Bartram's history is filled with deep playoff runs and close calls. Its first state semifinal appearance came 10 years ago, ironically, with a regional final victory over Fleming Island. Since then, star quarterbacks Kyle Parker, Nathan Peterman and P.J. Blazejowski led the Bartram teams to final four berths, only to come up short each time.

This year, it's Bartram's two-pronged quarterback attack of Riley Smith and Joey Gatewood, a steadily improving defense that forced six turnovers on Friday, and an assortment of playmakers who have yet to be slowed down this season.

"Ever since I've been at Bartram, we've had a special bond on this team," said Smith, who finished 7- of-10 passing for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns. "Nobody's selfish on this team. It's all selflessness. A big play downfield and you've got five or six guys down there blocking for it."

On the wrong side of one of the best playoff games in area history last year, Bartram got over the hurdle this time with a wire-to-wire clinic. …

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