KISSIMMEE - Neither the rain from a tropical system nor the wet natural grass playing surface at Poinciana High’s Eagle Field slowed the Bartow varsity football team on Friday, Oct. 18.
Head coach Richard Tate’s Yellow Jackets remained undefeated in the Class 7A, District 6 standings with a 49-13 victory over Poinciana.
Bartow (5-3) improved to 3-0 in district play and set up a showdown next Friday, Oct. 25, against the host Winter Haven Blue Devils (6-2, 3-0) for the 7A-6 championship — and an automatic trip to the regional playoffs.
Bartow has outscored its last two opponents 69-19, while Winter Haven’s current six-game win streak includes three October victories by a combined margin of 13 points.
Steady rain fell for much of the Bartow-Poinciana contest (courtesy of Tropical Storm Nestor) as the host Eagles celebrated Senior Night as well as a Pink Out to help benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure. But it was the Yellow Jackets who built an early lead and never trailed.
Quarterback Lin Johnson passed for three touchdowns and ran for another score and Joshua Burley scored twice, highlighted by a key kickoff return as time expired in the first half.
Amarion Baker contributed a touchdown run and two-point conversion in the second quarter, and Tyler Simpson had a pair of second-half TD receptions. The Yellow Jackets’ defense — led in part by lineman Josh Simmons — also shined while not allowing a point after halftime.
Leading 7-0 after Burley’s long touchdown run, Bartow reached midfield on its second possession where Johnson hit Terrance Elder in stride down the right sideline. Corey Adams’ extra point made it 14-0 with 1:22 left in the opening quarter.
Poinciana (3-5, 0-3) closed within 14-6 at the 11:33 mark of the second quarter. Senior quarterback Justin Carpenter found Treyvion Gunter in the end zone between a pair of defenders for a 14-yard touchdown, but Baker answered with an impressive scoring run 20 seconds later as the Yellow Jackets went ahead 20-6.
The Eagles recovered a fumble near midfield late in the first half and Carpenter’s 11th touchdown pass of the season came with 11 seconds remaining and helped close Poinciana’s deficit to 20-13. However, Burley fielded an ensuing squib kick and raced into the end zone after finding a crease in the middle of the field and Baker’s two-point run gave Bartow a 28-13 lead at intermission.
Bartow then took the second-half kickoff and put together a five-plus minute drive, ending in Johnson’s 5-yard run around the left side.
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