Bloomingdale has a lot of things going the right way in Valrico for coach John Booth. After a tough one-point loss to East Bay Oct. 11, the Bulls (5-3) responded with wins over Riverview and Newsome and have themselves in a position to play Wharton for a playoff spot on Friday.
“We've got to win out to control our own destiny,” Booth said Saturday. “We said last week was the biggest game of the season and now we are saying it again against Wharton. This week kind of makes or breaks the season.”
The offense has found new life behind a steadily improving passing attack, marking a new trend in a team that has relied on a heavy dose of rushing in the past. The Bulls' offense had to find a new option after the graduation of last season's workhorse Eugene Baker, who averaged nearly 20 carries a game in 2012.
The Bulls have got solid work from junior quarterback Tommy McLaughlin in his two starts of the season and a trio of wide receivers, senior Cody Decker and juniors Logan Crouse and Doug Sandberg have provided a variety to the offense that the Bulls have built upon.
“Since I've been here, we've had that one go-to guy and we had to force-feed him the ball,” Booth said. “(Variety to the offense) means teams can't key in on one guy and are forced to keep an eye on everybody.”
Crouse, a 6-foot-5 physical presence, has 35 receptions for 389 yards and five touchdowns, including a scoring catch of 14 yards from McLaughlin in Bloomingdale's 24-10 win over Newsome on Friday. Decker and Sandberg each have chipped in with four touchdown catches on the year.
“We are starting to see the production from (Logan) that we were expecting,” Booth said. “And a lot of that has to do with the production of Doug Sandberg because people are surprised by a guy the size of Crouse, so he got a lot of bracket coverages.”
“But that allowed Sandberg and Decker and our other receivers opportunities and now teams have to be more balanced. And it's allowed Logan to showcase what he can do.”
Defensively, the Bulls got a huge lift from a pair of interception returns for touchdowns against the Wolves. Chris Wonsley returned a pick 67 yards in the second quarter, while Alan Yearby's 52-yard return in the fourth iced the win for the Bulls.
Booth said the defense's success the last two weeks and in the 13-12 loss to East Bay could be credited to the fact that the Indians, Riverview and Newsome are primarily running teams and that the preparations were similar.
The Bulls will have to adjust quickly as they face Class 8A-District 6 opponent Wharton (6-3, 2-2 in the district) and standout Wildcats quarterback Chase Litton (13 passing and four rushing touchdowns) this Friday with heavy playoff implications.
“We are going to have to get our secondary coached up,” Booth said. “Litton does a great job avoiding the rush and getting out of the pocket, extending plays and their receivers do a good job finding open areas once he scrambles.”
“We know we have to get pressure on him up front to force throws, but (Litton's) been doing it the last three years and we know it won't be an easy task.”
Harrell makes most of offensive chances
Tampa Catholic coach Mike Gregory said he knew going into the Crusaders' home game against Lakeland Christian that he would need to find a way to get senior, two-way star TJ Harrell involved in the offense. In last week's win over Berkeley Prep, Harrell led the way with a pair of touchdown runs and 127 yards on the ground en route to a 17-10 win.
On Friday, Harrell got just three rushes on offense, but made them count with a pair of touchdown runs of 26 and 38 yards in the Crusaders' 41-0 shutout win over Lakeland Christian that sealed a district title for Tampa Catholic (7-1).
Spoto's first win of the season could not have come at a better time as the Spartans defeated district opponent Middleton 24-0, led by three second-quarter touchdown passes from Kevin Hobley. The win in the three-team Class 5A-District 9 means the Spartans are in a good position to reach the playoffs. Jesuit (5-3, 1-0) faces Middleton this Friday with a chance to lock up the top seed and put the Spartans into the region playoffs. … In Class 7A-District 8, a playoff spot is still up for grabs. Strawberry Crest sits atop the bracket with a 3-1 district record, while East Bay and Plant City each have a 2-1 record with the Indians hosting Durant (3-6, 1-2) on Friday and the Raiders traveling to Brandon (3-5, 0-3). … With Gaither's 14-10 win over Tampa Bay Tech, both are now 3-1 in Class 7A-District 7 play. Gaither (4-4) finishes district play Friday against Steinbrenner (3-5, 2-2 in district), while the Titans will have to contend with district leader Sickles (7-1, 4-0). … Carrollwood Day locked up the runner-up spot in Class 2A-District 5 with its 40-20 win over Cambridge Christian. The Patriots have a district game against Northside Christian on Friday, but at 4-1 in district play hold a win over the next closest team, Canterbury, which sits at 3-2 with Cambridge remaining on its schedule.
Dominic Cuono, Carrollwood Day – The Patriots' two-way senior helped his team early first with a 29-yard rushing scamper, then helped them stretch the lead with a 90-yard fumble return for a touchdown at the end of the second quarter.
Christian Ashford, East Bay – The Indians junior had a pair of 60-yard punt returns for TDs as East Bay avoided an upset by holding off Brandon, 22-21.
Landon Galloway, Plant City – The Raiders' QB had four passing touchdowns and a rushing score as Plant City topped Strawberry Crest, 41-14.
Jeff Suarez, Gaither – The Cowboys senior had a pair of touchdowns, a 2-yard run and a 40-yard reception in leading a 14-10 win over Tampa Bay Tech.
Chris Oladokun, Alonso – The Ravens sophomore has 20 touchdown passes on the season to just two interceptions after Friday's five-TD performance, four of which were from 22 yards out or longer.