TAMPA — Jesuit first-year coach Matt Thompson had a feeling. He witnessed a sluggish week of practice and said he thought his team might be a little flat to start the playoffs. He was right.
Jesuit struggled against a 3-8 Auburndale team but did just enough to outlast it 29-21 in a Class 5A region quarterfinal.
“We had a letdown week,” said Thompson, whose team played without quarterback Vincent Testaverde (appendix surgery). “We’ve got to realize we have got to be focused every week for every game.”
The Tigers seemingly took control in the third quarter with two Ryan Black touchdown catches sandwiched around an Auburndale fumble that made it 29-7.
The Bloodhounds, though, stormed back, taking advantage of a Jesuit fumble and missed field goal to score two touchdowns and cut it to 29-21.
But the Tigers ran out the clock behind Kevin Newman, who ran seven straight times during the game’s last series. He finished with 105 yards and a touchdown.
Early on, the punters got most of the action. The teams combined for eight over the first quarter and a half. But a punt got Jesuit going. The Tigers blocked one and recovered the ball at the 1 to set up Newman’s touchdown.
Midway through the second quarter, another Bloodhounds miscue benefited the Tigers. A snap went through quarterback Tyler
Wilkerson’s legs and squirted out of the end zone for a safety. Jesuit followed with a six-play, 51-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard Drew Paulsen touchdown catch from Trent Wessel.