REPLAY: Cocoa Tigers Advance To Class 4A State Championship After 49-14 Win Over University
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Assistant Editor // November 25, 2017
Cocoa 49, University 14 Final
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Watch the live play-by-play as the Friday Night Locker Room and Space Coast Daily TV bring you the Class 4A semifinal playoff game between the Cocoa Tigers and University Sharks from Cocoa Stadium.
BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA — The University Sharks tried to intimidate the Cocoa Tigers prior to Friday night’s FHSAA Region 4 State Semifinal game, the key words there being “tried to.” The Sharks and Tigers engaged in pregame trash talking on the field and there even appeared to be some animosity between the teams during the coin toss.
But once the ball was kicked off the Tigers did their talking with their play on the field as Cocoa dominated the University Sharks from start to finish.
Led by Senior quarterback Bradley Cantrell and junior running back Willie Gaines, the Tigers routed the Sharks 49-14, finishing with a running clock for the entire fourth quarter.
The duo factored in on five of the Tigers touchdowns, as Cantrell passed for two and ran for one and Gaines, who finished with 223 yards on 27 carries, ran for two scores. The Sharks only win in the game came during the coin toss but they deferred and the Tigers rushing attack, led by Gaines, went to work.
The junior finished off a nearly eight-minute opening game drive for Cocoa when he scored from one yard out to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead. Following a big stand by the Tigers defense, who stopped the Sharks on fourth down deep in Cocoa territory, Gaines went to work again, although this time the Tigers drive stalled at the Sharks 20.
Cocoa, who is deep and talented at every phase of the game turned to their can’t miss kicker, Alex Petruzzello, who nailed a 34-yard attempt to put the Tigers up 10-0.
The Sharks young defense adjusted somewhat and began to effectively run blitz the Tigers attack but that’s when senior signal caller Bradley Cantrell stepped up and began to go to work.
Cantrell would flash with his feet first as he executed several fakes to Tigers backs and took off running with for big chunks of yards. Cantrell’s arm put the Tigers up 17 and then 24-0, as he found senior wideout ReShean Lynn for touchdown passes of 17 and 31 yards respectively on the Tigers next two possessions.
The 6’4” 180-pound junior wideout showed no ill-effects from an injury he suffered in the middle of the season, as Lynn consistently got behind the highly talented and well recruited secondary of the Sharks.
University scored their lone first half touch with just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter following a busted coverage by the Tigers secondary. Junior wide receiver Jordan Irizarry hauled in a 63-yard pass from quarterback George Bubrick.
Irizarry was 30-yards behind the nearest Cocoa defender but the Tigers didn’t blink and marched right back down the field putting more points on the board.
The only thing that stopped Cocoa from scoring a touchdown was the clock. With just seven seconds remaining in the half and the ball on the Sharks nine-yard line, head coach John Wilkinson sent his ever-reliable kicker back on and this time Petruzzello nailed a 22-yarder capping a 17-point second quarter and putting the tigers ahead 27-7 at the break.
The second half was more of the same as Cocoa churned out yards in bunches scoring two more touchdowns in the third quarter. Cantrell and Gaines would again find pay dirt as Cantrell scored on a 15-yard run and Gaines from 25.
The Tigers opted for to go for two following the Gaines scamper and Cantrell converted the try to give the Tigers a 42-7 lead. The conversion opened a 35-point lead, which under FHSAA rules means the clock runs without stopping which it did for the entire fourth quarter.
The two teams exchanged touchdowns in the final period. Sophomore Jacquez Glasco finished off Cocoa’s scoring with a 14-yard TD run.
As impressive as Cocoa’s offense was in the game, the Tigers defense once again flexed their run stuffing muscle. Universities highly touted junior ball carrier, Kenny McIntosh was held in check for most of the night. The Miami Hurricanes commit broke off a big run on the Sharks first possession but that was it.
After falling behind and constantly trailing by two and three scores, Sharks head coach Daniel Luque opened up the passing attack. Johns Hopkins commit, George Bubrick, did an admiral job completing 17 of his 25 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
Bubrick had pressure from Cocoa’s front seven all night. Howard Stewart, Jon Smith, Zach Brasher and others shut down an offense that averaged 30 points per game and a running back in McIntosh that averaged over 100-yards per contest and rushed for 234-yards and five scores last week.
The Tigers are now heading back to Camping World Stadium in Orlando on December 7 where they will face the Raines Vikings from Jacksonville for the Class 4A State Championship. Raines is 12-1 on the year including the playoffs and on Friday easily and defeated the Bradford Tornadoes 53-13 to advance to Orlando.
Cocoa and Raines met once back in 2014 with the Tigers beating the Vikings 37-28 in a game that featured nearly 900 yards of total offense.
Stay tuned to Space Coast Daily during the next two weeks as we bring you interviews and specials on the Tigers drive for a fifth state title and second in a row.
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