ST. PETERSBURG — Boca Ciega can credit its defense for preserving a 20-14 victory over Dixie Hollins on the road.
The Rebels, however, will look back at Friday's game and wonder what could have been.
Four times in the second half, Dixie moved the ball inside the Boca Ciega 20-yard line but could muster only one touchdown, which came on a Raheem Smith 3-yard carry with just more than five minutes left to make the score 20-14.
"We outplayed them in the second half, but we've got to score in the red zone," Dixie coach Mike Morey said. "We've got to make some catches. That's my job. I coach the offense, and we didn't score."
Boca Ciega's defense limited Dixie to 27 yards of first-half offense and 167 yards total, but the Pirates (1-1) couldn't put the game away until the Rebels offense threw four straight incomplete passes from its own 16 with less than two minutes to go.
"In my mind, our defense is the No. 1 defense in the state right now," said Boca Ciega tailback Latavien Washington, who got just two carries in the first half but toted the ball 13 times after the break for 46 yards total and a touchdown run. "I love them."
Boca Ciega scored on its first offensive play when Washington threw a 65-yard touchdown strike to Darrian Skinner on a halfback option pass.
Dixie (2-1) answered early in the second quarter. Josh Brown, playing quarterback for Jesse Hevia who sprained his right ankle midway through the first quarter and didn't return, found Gerard Atkins for a 4-yard touchdown pass on third and goal to tie the score at 7.
That score was set up by Raheem Smith, who recovered a Washington fumble at the Boca Ciega 30 and returned it to the 4.
Just before the half, Boca Ciega took the lead for good on Shaquille Bradford's 9-yard touchdown pass to Jovontae Johnson.
Boca Ciega had its best drive of the night to open the second half. The Pirates, starting at their 23, ran 12 plays and used up nearly half of the third-quarter clock before Washington ran in from 8 yards out. From that point, the Rebels had a first and goal from the 10 and failed to score. On its next possession, Dixie advanced to the Pirates' 16 but came away empty-handed.
Early in the fourth, Dixie had a first and goal from the 5 but was turned away on three straight running plays before Brown's fourth-down throw was incomplete.
"This was a must-win," Boca Ciega coach Stevie Thomas said. "We had to have this one. I'm just glad we were able to squeeze one out. Dixie's a tough team. They played hard."