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WINDS OF CHANGE

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For either DHS or Bradford, streak of playoff misfortune will end

By Jeff Bryan

One point will be clear after the final horn sounds Friday night at Bradford High School in Starke: one program will have exorcized its playoff demons.

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Dunnellon has had its share of first-round success the past three seasons, and no one knows it better than the Tornadoes, who have fallen to the Tigers in the opening round the past two years. But on the flip side, Dunnellon knows all too well the sting of playoff loss, having fallen in the second round two straight seasons.

So when the buzzer goes off along U.S. 301, one program will erase two years of frustration while the other will still have that proverbial “monkey” on their back for at least another offseason.

The success against Bradford “maybe” makes a little difference, according to Dunnellon coach Price Harris.

“But every team is unique,” he explained. “We are not the same team, neither are they; they have a whole new coaching staff, so the schemes are not the same.”

Defensively, against Trenton, Dunnellon was in control, limiting its vaunted rushing attack to a pedestrian 115 yards. Overall, Dunnellon allowed 151 yards. But the Tornadoes are more than just a rushing team, though that is their bread-and-butter.

“The first thing is to take away the run,” Harris said about one key Friday against Bradford, which has won nine straight after losing its season opener. “That is our first goal every week, but we want to make them one-dimensional.”

The second key, Harris said, is to contain senior quarterback Zion Barber who has thrown for 1,019 yards, 16 TDs and five interceptions, while also amassing 479 rushing yards and seven additional scores.

“He is a good runner and letting him scramble on passes could give us problems,” Harris admitted. “And lastly, we have to keep everything in front of us in the passing game, no deep passes or double moves.”

Offensively, the Tigers were very balanced against Trenton, rushing for 212 yards, while quarterback Javon Lee had 211 through the air.

“We have to take what the defense is giving us,” the fourth-year coach said. “We cannot force the ball into coverage, and we must be able to run the football, so it will be imperative the offensive line is able to handle them up front.”

One advantage Dunnellon had against Trenton was in special teams, but that might not be the case this week, Harris said.

“Their kicker is pretty phenomenal,” he added. “Our coverage has been good all year, but they do have an advantage in that area.”

Health wise, the Tigers have a few bumps and bruises, Harris said.

“It is Week 13, nothing out of the ordinary,” he noted.

DUNNELLON AT BRADFORD

* WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bradford High School, 581 N. Temple Ave., Starke.

* RECORDS: Dunnellon 8-2 overall, Bradford 9-1.

* LAST WEEK: The Tigers throttled Trenton, 49-7; the Tornadoes bested Keystone Heights, 27-7.

* NOTABLE: This will be the third straight season Dunnellon and Bradford meet in the playoffs; however, unlike the past two years, this is the first second-round matchup. The Tigers have owned the Tornadoes in the last two contests, winning 35-6 in 2015 and 48-21 a year ago on the road.

* PLAYERS TO WATCH: Dunnellon QB Javon Lee threw for 211 yards and four TDs while adding 68 yards and another score on the ground. RB Jase Williams returned to action, rushing for a team-high 83 yards and one score. He also had two catches for 44 yards. WR Corey Patterson had four catches for 107 yards and a pair of TDs. LB Maurice Jefferies had a team-best 9.5 tackles and half a sack against Trenton. CB Ja’Quavion Fraizers had a 60-yard interception return, his ninth interception this season. ... Bradford has shown an ability to spread the ball around as 24 players have had at least one carry or reception this season. Senior QB Zion Barber has thrown for 1,019 yards, 16 TDs and five interceptions, while also amassing 479 rushing yards and seven additional scores.

RB Jeremiah Vaughn leads the Tornadoes with 765 rushing yards and 10 TDs. RB Tally Chandler has 690 yards and seven TDs. WR Chris Cummings is the top target, having caught 34 passes for 650 yards and 13 scores. LB Taro Ward is the anchor of the defense, having registered a team-best 82 tackles, while DE Gerald Smith III leads the Tornadoes with seven sacks while posting 55 tackles.