TAMPA — It was a matter of pride, according to Tampa Catholic seniors TJ Harrell and Tre Watson. Two defensive stands in the second half mattered little to the outcome of the game as the Crusaders cruised to a 41-0 win over Lakeland Christian in front of a homecoming crowd.
But for the two seniors and the Tampa Catholic defensive unit, keeping the Vikings off the board en route to a Class 3A-District 4 title meant everything.
“We have been chasing another goose egg all year,” Harrell said. “If we get a goose egg we get like 10 boxes of doughnuts.”
“I told everyone before the game that the stage was set for us. A district championship — we just had to come out here and put in the work.”
On the opening possession, Crusaders quarterback Kyle Ploucher had a batted pass intercepted by a Lakeland Christian defender. But the Vikings' drive was short-lived as Watson recovered a wayward lateral toss.
From there it was all Tampa Catholic. Harrell found a big hole opened by the offensive line and weaved his way 26 yards for the opening score.
“It was almost a setback,” Watson said, “but because we got the ball back so fast we were able to get right back to doing what we wanted.”
Ploucher completed his next four passes, including two touchdown strikes (of 46 and 67 yards) to Justin Motlow, bookending another Harrell scoring run of 38 yards as the Crusaders (7-1) jumped out to a commanding lead. Ploucher finished the game 8-of-14 for 191 yards, including 134 yards to Motlow, while Harrell rushed for 60 yards and Kenny Bryant added 64 yards rushing.
The team added a 1-yard score from Justin Vertino before the half, and Jalen Dickenson had a 3-yard touchdown in the second half.
Late in the third quarter the Vikings (6-2) finally put together some offense, driving inside the 10, but a tackle behind the line and two deflected passes ended the scoring threat. In the fourth it was much of the same.
The win moves the Crusaders to 4-0 in 3A-4, earning the team its first district title since 2009.
“We came out with a goal, with a mission,” Crusaders head coach Mike Gregory said. “... It was unbelievable.”
Lakeland Chr. 0 0 0 0 — 0
Tampa Cath. 21 13 7 0 — 41
T – Harrell 26 run (Sarafianos kick)
T – Motlow 46 pass from Ploucher (Sarafianos kick)
T – Harrell 38 run (Sarafianos kick)
T – Motlow 67 pass from Ploucher (kick failed)
T – Vertino 1 run (Sarafianos kick)
T – Dickenson 3 run (Sarafianos kick)