Longtime Hillsborough High football coach Earl Garcia said he almost sprinted to the bus after Friday’s 28-27 win at King. Garcia watched as leads disappeared and mistakes on his side almost cost his team the game and he couldn’t help but think back on past visits to the Lions’ field in Temple Terrace.
“I hate being at King,” Garcia said Saturday. “I don’t know, there must be an old Terrier burial ground out there or something. I was just praying we’d get the win and we could get on the dang bus and go home.”
Garcia said his first thought after he went for a 2-point conversion to take the one-point lead, was to a game at King in 1996 where his Terriers were looking to wrap up their second straight 10-0 season, but in the final minutes fumbled and lost the game.
“In 1996, we were trying to take a knee and run out the clock and they were keeping the time on the field,” Garcia said.
“I asked the ref how much time was left and he said, ‘23’ and I heard 1:23 and we snapped the ball, fumbled and they returned it 80-90 yards for the score and we ended up 9-1.”
Friday night after taking the lead, Garcia thought he was reliving a nightmare as King quickly made its way inside the Terriers’ 10-yard line before forcing a turnover.
However, even that turned dicey after two Terriers players were called for penalties, pushing the ball back to the 2-yard line and forcing Garcia to call a pair of quarterback sneaks instead of kneeling the game out for the win.
“And they had two time-outs and almost forced us to punt,” Garcia added. “There was no just taking a knee, relaxing and going home — oh no, we couldn’t do that, we had to sneak and I think I lost 10 pounds last night.”
Never underestimate special teams
Wharton coach David Mitchell knew what his team needed to do to top Newsome on Friday night. He relied on his 6-foot-5 quarterback Chase Litton to move the ball through the air, and when Newsome adjusted its defense in the second half, the Wildcats switched to a run-first approach.
Defensively, Mitchell was quite familiar with the option-run offense Newsome uses so well. It was similar to, if not exactly like, the offense Leto used in 1980s, where Mitchell coached.
The deciding factor in his team’s 21-20 win, however, was a special-teams play, a situation Mitchell said his Wildcats can never be too prepared for.
With 3:06 left in the fourth quarter, Litton sent a punt high into the air, allowing it to drop inside the Newsome 5-yard line. It was stopped by Theo Hyppolite at the 1.
Wharton’s defense forced a turnover on downs and the Wildcats sealed the win by running out the clock.
“When we have practice, we have special teams at the beginning of practice,” Mitchell said. “The big joke about special teams is with coach Mitchell doing special teams it’s going to take an hour to do. My philosophy is special teams wins and loses games. You saw we roughed the punter before the half and that ended in a scoring drive. This time, it worked just like we wanted it to, downing it on the 1-yard line. We took the delay of game to give us some more room and now they believe that’s why we work on special teams.”
East Bay gets past turnover hangover
East Bay has struggled with turnovers and kicking-game mistakes in recent games, but Friday the Indians turned the tables on Class 7A-District 8 foe Plant City.
The Raiders ended up with two turnovers and a ball snapped over the punter’s head, while East Bay — which in an earlier two-game span turned the ball over 11 times — threw just one interception against Plant City.
Granted, the Indians (4-2, 2-0) did miss an extra point, but it didn’t prove to be dire as they still found a way to get the 19-13 overtime victory.
“We did a better job of executing tonight,” East Bay coach Frank LaRosa said. “This team has proven it never gives up.”
Jeff Keil, Wharton — The Wildcats senior rushed for 116 yards, and caught seven passes for 119 yards and a game-deciding touchdown as Wharton topped Newsome on the road.
Deon Thompson, Tampa Bay Tech — The senior followed his two-touchdown performance in the win against Plant last week with five scores (three rushing, two receiving) for the Titans.
Kevin Newman, Jesuit — The Tigers junior had four rushing touchdowns in the first half as Jesuit handled district foe Spoto, 49-16.
Ray Ray McCloud, Sickles — The Gryphons running back recorded his second three-rushing-touchdown game in the win against Freedom and now has 10 rushing scores this season.
Deiondre Porter, Jefferson — The Dragons QB had three passing touchdowns and a rushing score, leading the way to a 49-0 triumph against Leto.