Posted: 12:45 am Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Playoff Primer 2012: Fort Pierce Central conjures high expectations 

By Jeff Greer

On Friday, there are 16 playoff games involving teams from our area. In the buildup to the games, we’ll break down every matchup.

Fort Pierce Central was the Treasure Coast’s only undefeated team in the regular season. The Cobras bested area powerhouse Vero Beach, and beat Melbourne-Palm Bay, a perennial playoff team. They did it with not only a constantly improving passing attack paired with a very good running game, but also with defense. Central’s defense has been underrated all season, and the statistics below will show why. Now comes the hard part: All paths to a state appearance lead to Bradenton-Manatee, the nation’s top-ranked team that appears even more powerful than the one that edged out Central last fall.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. General admission is $8; reserved seating is $9.

FORT PIERCE CENTRAL
Record: 9-0.
How they qualified: Winner, District 12-7A.
Average points per game: 35.
Average points allowed per game: 7.8.
Offensive yardage totals: 3,184 (1,438 rush/1,746 pass).
Offensive stars: RB Marcus Levy, QB Sam Vaughn, WRs Josh Knight, Jameel Jackson, JJ Stevens.
Defensive yardage totals: 1,440 (709 rush/731 pass).
Best win: 21-17 over Vero Beach.

LEMON BAY
Record: 7-3.
How they qualified: Runner-up, District 11-7A.
Average points per game: 29.1.
Average points allowed per game: 23.4.
Best win: 28-20 over Port Charlotte.

PBGametime favorite: Fort Pierce Central.
Pinkos’ prediction: Fort Pierce Central by 35.
Lazindex favorite: Fort Pierce Central.

You know what’s a bad sign for a team that’s about to play one of the state’s best squads in Class 7A? A loss to LaBelle. Here’s why:

Lemon Bay lost 14-13 to LaBelle, which lost 47-0 to Clewiston, which lost 35-0 to Martin County, which lost 40-7 to Fort Pierce Central.

I’m not great at math, but however many degrees of separation that is is enough to warrant some concern for Lemon Bay. Central’s posted two shutouts and four other wins when it held opponents under 10 points. So even if the offense doesn’t show up for Central, which isn’t likely with the passing options and running game it has, the defense should be able to do some damage.

Central’s main goal is getting another shot at Manatee. There’s, of course, two rounds of games before that, and Manatee has to take care of its own business, but the prospect of that rematch is an exciting one. Why? Manatee barely edged out Central, 13-10, in one of the state’s best playoff games. Both teams are stronger this fall. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.