Looking to make a statement early against district rival Miramar, Cypress Bay turned to its ground game to set the tone.
Cypress Bay (10-2) killed almost eight minutes off the clock on its opening drive, going 60 yards on 13 plays.
That possession culminated on senior Matt Dayes’ 1-yard run, his first of three touchdowns, as the Lightning beat the Patriots 34-14 in the Region 3-8A semifinals Friday night at Lightning Stadium.
“We came out physical, ran at them and played good defense,” said Cypress Bay coach Mark Guandolo, whose team rushed for 274 yards. “That’s what we’re going to do. Our players — big guys — making plays, and they did.”
When Miramar (7-5) went three-and-out and produced just a 17-yard punt, the Lightning took advantage of a short field on senior Jake Bray’s 32-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
After another failed Miramar drive, quarterback Nick Jeanty, who threw high on three incompletions, was replaced by junior Gerald Hawkins.
Junior running back Cameron Rigby fumbled, and Cypress Bay recovered at the Miramar 32. On the eighth play of the drive, senior Jaranta Lewis found senior Alex Montgomery on a 6-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal.
Miramar didn’t pick up a first down until 4:18 remained in the half. The Patriots drove down the field, but the Lightning put together a goal-line stand when Hawkins couldn’t score on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
“It took a lot out of us because our whole game plan was to score, get the ball out of halftime and then we’re down by three,” Miramar coach Damon Cogdell said. “It didn’t work that way.”
The Patriots scored 14 points in the fourth quarter after being down 27-0. Sophomore Alex Anderson reached the end zone on a 1-yard run with 7:32 left.
Dayes scored on runs of 4 and 59 yards in the second half, the latter of which answered Anderson’s touchdown on the first play of the ensuing drive.
Hawkins and junior Tyler Williams connected from 21 yards out to make it 34-14 with just under six minutes remaining in the game.
When the District 12-8A teams played Sept. 28 in the fourth game of the season, the Lightning held on for a 17-13 victory on the road.
Last year, Miramar beat Cypress Bay 23-7 to advance to the regional final. The Patriots then beat Palm Beach Central en route to the state title game, which Miramar dropped to Plant 31-20.
“It was big,” said Dayes, who rushed for 169 yards on 34 carries. “They said it was revenge for them from earlier in the season, but it was big revenge for us from last year.”
Since losing to the country’s top team in Manatee, Cypress Bay is on a six-game winning streak.
In 2010, the Lightning reached the state semifinals — the furthest it has gone in the program’s history.
Cypress Bay will face the winner of Seminole Ridge and Palm Beach Central in next week’s regional final.
“We know our district is the toughest, I think, in the state, and to get out of our district is tough,” Guandolo said. “Miramar is the team you’ve got to beat. You’ve got to win and advance. That’s what the playoffs are all about.”