TAMPA — Tampa Bay Tech stuck to what it knows best Friday night: playing smash-mouth football.
The host Titans (7-4) jumped to an early lead, pounded the ball on the ground in the second half and leaned on its defense to hold onto a 14-10 win against East Lake (8-3) in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
TBT will visit undefeated Countryside, routed Brandon 46-16, in a region semifinal next week.
"Offensively and defensively, we wanted to grind the ball out to use the clock," TBT coach C.C. Culpepper said. "We're going to put a hat on a hat, drive them out of the way and put the ball in our (running) backs' hands."
The Titans have been without running backs Lamarq Caldwell and Devontae McCloud because of injury. McCloud returned Friday, but he was limited, meaning more carries for junior Cludner LaCount, junior Qareeb Ahmed and sophomore Jamaruz Thompkins. They did not accomplish much in the first half as East Lake held TBT to 62 yards rushing.
However, despite completing three passes all game, quarterback Jonathon Williams hit receiver Lenevar Delaney for two touchdowns, including an 80-yard strike, to give the Titans a 14-7 halftime lead.
From there, TBT only threw once more, gaining 107 yards rushing in the second half.
"I don't know until we watch the film if it was just us wearing down or what is was," East Lake coach Bob Hudson said.
Meanwhile, TBT held East Lake to 132 yards total offense and held the Eagles to a field goal late when they were trying to tie.
"We take a hit around here in this area because you have teams like Armwood and Plant, and we're always going to play second fiddle with them," Culpepper said, "but our defense is probably one of the top defenses in this county. But we'll never get the accolades for it."