TAMPA — In some ways, Carrollwood Day football remains in the crawling stage. The Patriots have no press box, permanent bleachers or lights. Synthetic turf and a video scoreboard remain only aspirations.
But what the Patriots do possess now is a signature victory, secured on a windy Friday.
Down by nine halfway into the third period, the Patriots (8-1, 6-1) rallied behind big plays and a stout second-half defense for a 28-22 victory against Indian Rocks Christian (6-2, 6-2). CDS clinches the six-year-old program’s first playoff berth with a win next Friday at Calvary Christian.
“This game,” University of Cincinnati-bound tailback Robert Davis said, “was definitely something here that made us break through.”
Credit the resilience of Davis (18 carries, 159 yards), the ruggedness of the defense (which held IRC to one fourth-period first down), and the repetitive self-destruction of the Golden Eagles (16 penalties, 153 yards).
IRC held Davis to 10 yards on his first five carries and marched 75 yards on the game’s opening possession. The Eagles took an 8-0 lead on sophomore Damian King’s 8-yard run and Matt Kulaga’s scramble into the end zone after a botched extra-point snap.
But they had one interception in the CDS red zone and prolonged two Pats scoring drives with penalties.
“We killed ourselves,” said Eagles coach Mark Buchanan, whose team could’ve clinched the district with a win. “We stopped them pretty much all night, but we gave up a couple of big plays on the pass.”
CDS took a 13-8 halftime lead on quarterback Vidal Woodruff’s 54-yard scoring pass to Andy Embody, who was in single coverage down the right sideline; and Davis’ 36-yard TD run with 1:36 to play in the half.
The Eagles retook the lead on the second half’s opening drive, going 80 yards in eight plays, capped by King’s 6-yard TD run. Embody fumbled on the next play from scrimmage, and King (125 total yards) scored four plays later from 21 yards to make it 22-13.
“We did everything we could for three quarters not to win the game,” CDS coach Lane McLaughlin said.
A 23-yard pass from Woodruff to Nate Lewis on the ensuing possession, followed by an IRC personal foul call, set up Woodruff’s 25-yard TD pass to Embody (four catches, 106 yards). IRC punted after five plays on its next drive, setting up Davis’ go-ahead 15-yard TD run with 11:38 to go.
Prolonging the seven-play drive: an Eagles interference penalty on third and 18.
“They were bigger than us but our guys are tough,” McLaughlin said. “They showed the will to win tonight.”