HOLLYWOOD — They boarded their charter bus back for Tampa with seven offensive points — and even fewer style points — to show for the intense state semifinal clash they had just waged with Chaminade-Madonna.
Not exactly a Hollywood ending for the Crusaders, which was the whole objective.
Instead, this season will end at the Florida Citrus Bowl, in the Class 2B state title game.
A 52-yard Hank McCloud touchdown run, Mike Paleveda extra point and sterling defensive effort were all Tampa Catholic needed to escape Hollywood's McArthur High with a 7-6 triumph Friday against previously undefeated Chaminade.
The outcome wasn't sealed until Tyler Robb sacked Jerrard Randall on fourth and 7 inside the TC 40 with fewer than two minutes to play.
Moments later, the Crusaders, their coaches and cheerleaders were jumping in unison near midfield chanting "813," in reference to the second state final berth they've dialed up in the past three seasons.
"Defense, I can't say enough," said coach Bob Henriquez, whose club will face Jacksonville Bolles at 1 p.m. Dec. 12.
"The coaches burned the midnight oil this week. We left some points out there offensively, but we kept them off the field. Our defense came up big at the end."
Against a team that outscored its first two playoff opponents 70-18, the Crusaders (11-1) never flinched. Chaminade (12-1) advanced inside TC's 25 only twice, scoring on Randall's 8-yard run with 6.7 seconds left in the third. Pat Gay's extra point missed badly after being partially blocked.
Randall, who has amassed more than 2,000 total yards this season, finished with 99 on 15 carries but completed only 4 of 17 passes for 44 yards, often flinging to streaking receivers who never even looked back for the ball.
"We kind of shocked them, and it really threw them off their rhythm," Henriquez said. "I guess they thought we'd back down once they brought it to us, but our guys did a great job."
Offensively, the Crusaders left no fewer than two touchdowns on the field. On their first possession, a first down at the Lions 30 was wiped out by three penalties and a sack.
On their third possession, a first and goal at the 7 produced nothing on four consecutive runs, the last a 1-yard Hunter Joyer gain from the 2.
Then on fourth and 5 from the Lions 36 with less than a minute remaining in the first half, a miscommunication between quarterback Christian Green and his center resulted in a shotgun snap Green never saw coming.
"We were disappointed. We knew we left a couple of touchdowns out there," Henriquez said. "But we knew if we could get a score up — we hoped to get two scores up — I liked the way our defense was playing."
The score finally came on McCloud's simple sweep around the right side for 52 yards that featured a couple of jukes with 4:35 left in the third. McCloud finished with 119 yards on 20 carries.
In all, the Crusaders ran 40 times for 170 yards — just the way they scripted it for Hollywood.
"Oh yeah, (keeping the ball on the ground) was the game plan," McCloud said.
"That's our bread and butter of the whole season."