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TAMPA — After a closer first half than many expected, Jesuit pulled away Friday thanks to two back-to-back interceptions to start the fourth quarter, including one that even surprised the Tiger who caught it.
Jesuit’s Cameron Ruff — a 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive lineman — hauled in an attempted screen pass from Spoto’s Jaylon Davis on fourth down and took off 65 yards into the end zone to help Jesuit win 38-22.
“The whole entire time I thought someone was going to come right behind me,” Ruff said of his first career touchdown. “It was a big surprise to me.”
Ruff’s interception was one of four Spoto turnovers. Travis Johnson had two interceptions including one right after Ruff’s to start an eight-play drive that resulted in a 22-yard field goal by Bryce Greene.
In the third quarter, a Spartans fumble on their 1 set up an easy 1-yard TD run for Kevin Newman to make it 28-14. The freshman running back finished with 11 carries for 79 yards and three touchdowns.
Like Ruff, he too called his performance a bit unexpected.
“As a freshman, I just anticipate playing, not having a game like that,” he said.
Jesuit coach James Harrell credited his defense with buying time for the offense to find its rhythm. That was something Spoto only had for fleeting moments as Jesuit extended its winning streak to four.
The Tigers haven’t, though, forgotten the lessons learned from that opening loss.
“After that Plant game, we knew that we had to check ourselves if we were going to go to states,” Ruff said. “We knew we had to have big players make big plays and work as a team. From here, all we can do is get better.”