TAMPA — Tampa Catholic players wobbled off the field Friday night looking bewildered and lost.
Can we now call this the Walking Dead Rivalry?
The Crusaders looked like zombies, and The Streak won’t die, no matter how hard the Crusaders try to kill it.
Heck, even Jesuit tried to kill it this time, inexplicably going for a third-down pass with 100 seconds remaining instead of running time off the clock then errantly snapping the ball into Tigers territory on a field-goal attempt.
“I thought at that point … all along I thought we would win, and even after playing (poorly) with that snap over the head, I thought we had a chance,” said Tampa Catholic coach Mike Gregory. “There was definitely no shortage of opportunities.”
But you don’t lose 14 straight games to your archrival by taking advantage of those, and once again, so it was for the Crusaders.
Once again, they can say they should have won the game.
“It’s going to sting,” Gregory told his players. “You’re going to feel it for a long time.”
Five big plays that decided the game
1. Facing second and goal from the Jesuit 6 and trailing by a touchdown, Tampa Catholic decided against trying to power the ball into the end zone, despite having FSU commitment Corey Martinez at left tackle, Tre Watson available at fullback and T.J. Harrell — who scored the Crusaders’ only touchdown earlier — at running back.
That’s about 70 Division I college football offers of talent right there, and three plays to go 6 yards.
Instead, Tampa Catholic called a pass, and Kyle Ploucher was sacked for a 12-yard loss.
The Crusaders settled for a meaningless field goal.
2. On third down on the Tampa Catholic 29, with 1:40 remaining and the Crusaders out of timeouts, Jesuit tried a pass play. It was incomplete, stopping the clock, when a running play and a punt would have taken another 40 or so seconds off.
3. The play after that, Jesuit attempted a field goal, and the snap sailed over holder Trent Wessel’s head, giving Tampa Catholic one last chance at the Jesuit 45.
4. You could take any play of the last series, a particularly impressive series by the Jesuit defense. Dropping eight, Jesuit still managed to put Ploucher under great duress, forcing three hurried and harried plays that gained little.
Despite the best efforts of coaches afterward, Ploucher was inconsolable.
5. Jack Taylor’s blocked extra point after Harrell’s touchdown in the third quarter was huge. Because of it, Tampa Catholic needed a touchdown down the stretch to win, as opposed to a field goal to tie.
The headsets on the Tampa Catholic sideline were crackling from interference and rendered unusable — even though, as one assistant pointed out, they seemed to be working just fine on the other sideline. Just add that mystery to series lore.
Five Gatorade buckets
1. Jesuit made some funny decisions down the stretch and at times looked like they were trying to give Tampa Catholic another chance, but coach Matt Thompson kept the streak alive the way he knows how — with a ferocious defense and devastating pass rush.
2. Freshman Malik Davis ran for more than 100 yards in the first half and keyed the Jesuit dominance in the early going. For his first game in the heated rivalry, he played like a tested veteran.
3. Last year it was Parker Clonts with a fumble recovery in the end zone, this year it was sophomore Parker Looney, the Jesuit linebacker who sacked Ploucher on first and second down in the last minute of action.
4. Taylor didn’t just block a crucial extra point, he also had two sacks. The senior goes out perfect against the Crusaders.
5. The Blue Tide was, typically, superb, though Tampa Catholic’s baby powder explosions a la LeBron James was a nice, and new, touch.
Sure, the Blue Tide pulled out the tried and true Hey Hey Goodbye chant at the end, but Tampa Catholic may have walked out of the stadium Friday night with the Blue Tide’s most biting cheer ringing in their heads: “We own you! We own you!” Can’t argue with that.
Five final words
Sometimes, it’s meant to be.