TARPON SPRINGS — So Tarpon Springs is not perfect.
In fact, the Spongers, who had jumped out to a 2-0 season, gaining confidence and fan support, were a thoroughly beaten team Thursday night. They bowed to Class 3A, No. 5-ranked Tampa Catholic 27-3.
“There’s nothing like coming back to reality than getting your butt kicked,” Tarpon Springs coach Ron Hawn said. “Tampa Catholic is a great team. We want to get to that level, and we have to play teams like that to get there.”
The Crusaders (2-1) were coming off their biggest victory of the season, an overtime thriller over rival Clearwater Central Catholic, which was ranked No. 1 in 3A at the time. But there was no letdown this week thanks to an offense that had a breakout performance.
The Spongers (2-1) were startled on the first Crusaders’ drive, when Kyle Ploucher went gunning for his favorite target, hitting Justin Motlow on a 61-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage.
Two possessions later, Tampa Catholic’s Ben Reed ran 67 yards for a score. After a missed extra point, the Crusaders led 13-0 in the first quarter.
Tarpon Springs never recovered from a quick-strike attack in which the Spongers were bowled over by a barrage of big plays.
The scoring continued in the second quarter when Ploucher ran 14 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-0 at the half.
“Our defense has been strong the first two weeks, but we knew it was only a matter of time before our offense came through,” first-year Tampa Catholic coach Mike Gregory said. “This was a statement game form our offense.”
The Crusaders consistently broke through an avalanche of missed tackles, racking up 299 yards in the first half against a Spongers defense that stuffed Clearwater and Osceola runners on consecutive Friday nights to open the season.
The main benefactor in Tampa Catholic’s run game was Reed, who finished with 148 yards on 11 carries.
“I knew I’d play a little bit more and get a few more carries,” Reed said. “The holes were huge. That’s a big credit to the offensive line. We proved that last week’s win against CCC wasn’t a fluke.”
Tarpon Springs, meanwhile had trouble moving the ball and finished with 146 yards of offense.
In the second half, Ploucher hit Jake Romp on a 25-yard touchdown pass and Tarpon Springs’ Louis Zervos kicked a 36-yard field goal to round out the scoring.
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BobbyHomeTeam.