ENGLEWOOD — The Lemon Bay High football team had been defined by its defense the entire season.
Of course, it had never taken on an offensive juggernaut like Clewiston, which proceeded to carve them into pieces.
Zomarion Harper threw four touchdown passes — three to Chauncy Cobb — and the Clewiston defense forced four Lemon Bay turnovers for 21 points en route to a 42-28 win in the Region 4A-3 semifinals Friday.
It was a bitter end to a historic season for the Manta Rays.
Johnny Crawford rushed for 163 yards and a long touchdown run as he helped the Tigers score more points against the Mantas than all of Lemon Bay’s previous opponents combined.
Clewiston (8-2) will face the winner of Lakewood and Glades Central in the regional final next week.
Lemon Bay (9-1) got the ball first and needed three minutes to go 65 yards in nine plays, capped by Jason Hogan’s 3-yard touchdown run.
The Mantas had allowed just 25 points all season, but the Tigers moved the ball efficiently against them. Clewiston was aided by two Lemon Bay turnovers in the second quarter, which resulted in short fields. Partially as a result, the Tigers scored 21 unanswered points on three Harper touchdown passes for a 21-7 lead.
Hogan, who accounted for one of the turnovers, made up for it with a 58-yard run that set up a short plunge by Trey Rutan to bring the Mantas within 21-14 late in the first half.
James Edwards opened the second half wiith a 65-yard touchdown run on Clewiston’s first play from scrimmage to extend the Tigers’ lead to 28-20.
Hogan scored again early in the fourth to bring Lemon Bay back within a score, but Harper found Cobb for their third touchdown hookup two plays later. Then, after Preston Thompson interception, Edwards broke free for a 48-yard touchdown run to put the game away.
A Hail Mary from Rutan to Aaron Pasick in the closing seconds made the score closer.
KEY PLAYS: The 65-yard touchdown run by Crawford took the life out of the Manta Rays. Also, four turnovers led to 21 Tiger Points, the biggest difference.
WHAT IT MEANS: Despite the loss, this season will go down as the most successful in Lemon Bay history. These Mantas were the first team to have an undefeated season.
KEY STATS: Crawford had 163 yards rushing while Harper threw for 180 yards and four touchdowns. Hogan’s final game as a Manta Ray was a huge one as he rushed for 146 yards and two scores.
QUOTES: “We played hard, but we made mistakes, and in the playoffs when you play other good teams, that’s the difference. But the headline should be how proud I am of these guys. It hurts we didn’t win, but nothing will take what what they accomplished.” — Lemon Bay coach Don Southwell