TAMPA — What a difference one year makes.
Going into its fourth game last year, Tampa Catholic was 0-3 and written off by many. Coach Bob Henriquez named freshman quarterback Chivarsky Corbett his starter and prepared to welcome then-district rival Lake Highland Prep.
Though the Crusaders ultimately lost the game 27-10 thanks to a slew of fourth quarter mishaps, the future looked significantly brighter going forward.
“It was a comingout party for us,” Henriquez said. “We played a whale of a game against the district favorite, and then we gave it away in the fourth quarter.”
The Crusaders ultimately made the playoffs and have gone 8-1 in the regular season, including 3-0 this year, since that game. They will look to completely reverse last year’s misfortunes by moving to 4-0 this weekend at — you guessed i t— Lake Highland Prep.
The biggest difference between this year and last, according to Henriquez, is minimizing the problem that plagued the young team last year: turnovers.
What happened in the final quarter of the game against Lake Highland was a microcosm of the Crusaders’ early season woes. Thanks to Tampa Catholic’s physical play, Lake Highland’s quarterback was knocked out of the game along with one of its starting linebackers. With no quarterback, the team was reduced to running a limited number of plays out of the wildcat formation. Tampa Catholic had a 10-7 lead and the ball and was set to score again when the ball popped out of a running back’s hands. Corbett made a touchdown-saving tackle and injured his shoulder, forcing him out of the game. The ensuing Crusaders drive resulted in a snap soaring over the punter’s head, and Lake Highland took advantage of its second-straight short field to put the game away.
This year, Tampa Catholic has only lost two fumbles in its first three games. Corbett, who said that game last year feels like “forever” ago, has tossed four touchdowns and no interceptions and has proven himself as a battle-tested leader.
“This year, being a sophomore, I’m steadier in the pocket,” he said. “And I keep my cool.”
Lake Highland, too, is experiencing a reversal of fortunes, albeit in the opposite direction. After receiving a lofty preseason ranking for teams in the Orlando area, they have stumbled due to injuries and are 1-3. Regardless of the record, Henriquez is preparing his squad to face a top-notch team.
“The biggest thing is that we have to fight human nature and not look too closely at that Berkeley game,” he said (Berkeley Prep beat Lake Highland 35-0 last week). “We can’t look at them they way people probably looked at us last year.”