TAMPA — Tampa Catholic coach Bob Henriquez calls his team "a pretty heady bunch."
That's why after a first half in which the Crusaders turned the ball over twice on downs, tossed two interceptions and trailed by three, no big speech was needed or given. The result? Tampa Catholic (8-3) scored 20 unanswered and played stifling second-half defense to defeat Riviera Beach Inlet Grove 27-9 in a Class 2A region semifinal.
"We had some issues with what they were doing in the first half," said Henriquez, who earned his 99th career victory. "But this is playoff football and you have to put two halves together."
Trailing 9-7 late in the third, the Crusaders scored on a six-play, 38-yard drive when quarterback Christian Green ran 3 yards for a touchdown. The Crusaders, last season's Class 2A state runnersup, stretched their lead just minutes in the fourth quarter. Tampa Catholic turned two Inlet Grove (7-4) turnovers into points.
First, Green found Kenny Broadnax on a 36-yard touchdown pass. Then, after Tampa Catholic defensive back Ralph Grover intercepted Inlet Grove quarterback Terry Bradden's pass at the Hurricanes 39, the Crusaders turned that into a 29-yard field goal by Matt McLaughlin.