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Is this finally Tampa Catholic’s year vs. Jesuit?

By Rodney Page
Jesuit players sing the alma mater with fans after last year's game vs. Tampa Catholic, which Jesuit won 34-14. (Monica Herndon, Times)

This has to be the year, right?

Tampa Catholic has lost 17 straight games to rival Jesuit, which means the oldest rivalry in Hillsborough County hasn’t been much of a rivalry in almost a generation. But the Crusaders are 7-2. They have won six straight. They have four straight shutouts and outscored those four opponents 200-0.

"We’re playing at a high level right now," Tampa Catholic coach Mike Gregory said. "Ever since the second half of the Melbourne Central Catholic (a 34-31 loss) game, we’ve kind of figured out who we are. We’ve moved some personnel around and started playing good football."

There have been several seasons during the streak where Tampa Catholic has been the favorite but still lost. In 2015, the Crusaders won 10 games and were on a five-game win streak but still lost 35-20. Same for 2013, when TC went to the Class 3A state semifinals but lost 13-9 to Jesuit.

This season Jesuit is 4-4 and will be playing its second game of the week and third game in eight days. The Tigers were extended to overtime on Monday in a 17-16 loss to district foe Jefferson.

"You could say we’re not very good right now, but we lost two games, Durant and Jefferson, on the last play of the game," Jesuit coach Matt Thompson said. "We’re young and that’s part of being a young team. I still think we are a pretty good team."

Thompson said it was right back to work on Tuesday to prepare for their rival. Despite having a game Monday, this still feels like rivalry week.

"The Twitter wars have already begun," Thompson said. "This is the year the streak ends and all that."

The streak is bound to end sometime. Gregory has been saying all the right things. They are taking it game-by-game, etc. But he sure would like to change the conversation.

"The thing about it is you don’t just hear about it during Jesuit week," Gregory said. "You hear about it all the time."