TAMPA — After a season-opening loss to Armwood, Tampa Bay Tech had a bye week. Then Hurricane Irma rolled through, keeping Hillsborough County teams off the football field for consecutive weeks. By the time the Titans took the field Friday for a matchup against Hillsborough, it had been nearly a month since they'd hit pads that weren't their own.
But coach Jayson Roberts wasn't the slightest bit worried.
"The kids, they did a good over the break," he said. "I communicated with them about running on your own, even though we're not together, finding some time to jog so that we can come back in shape."
And did they ever.
Fueled by 210 team rushing yards, the Tampa Bay Tech offense couldn't be stopped, and the Titans scored four touchdowns from four players on the way to a 26-14 victory against the Terriers.
For Tampa Bay Tech quarterback Michael Penix Jr., the variety of scorers was exactly what he expected from an offensive unit that boasts a lot of depth. It was also a product, he said, of an offensive line that created opportunities all night.
"It was a great showing," said Penix, who threw for 90 yards and a touchdown. "The O-line did their job, always gotta give credit to them first. That opened up everything for my receivers and my running backs. They had a heck of a game."
Tampa Bay Tech (1-1) ran down the clock in the first quarter with a long, sustained drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run from Jaquavious Johnson. Hillsborough quarterback Tyler Thomas hit Taaj Pringle with a 34-yard touchdown pass in the next quarter to tie the score, and the Terriers found success on another long pass just before halftime, when Thomas tossed the ball to Tyrese Spain, who lofted it 80 yards to Terence Doston for another score.
Other than that, though, the Tampa Bay Tech defense held tough, and the Terriers (1-2) struggled to sustain future drives.
The Titans scored twice more — on 6- and 18-yard touchdown passes from Penix to Isaiah Stephens and Evan Lewis — to take a 6-point lead into the halftime break.
But just after intermission, there was another pause in the action, when Hillsborough safety Agyenim "Iggy" Thomas went down and failed to get back up. Thomas, who lost consciousness, had to be taken away from the field in an ambulance, and the game was stopped for more than 30 minutes. Afterward, the teams had to warm up again before resuming the game.
And while the players seemed to get right back in the flow of the game, Roberts admits it was a little bit harder for the rest of them.
"I think for them it's a little bit easier because they can compartmentalize it," a visibly shaken Roberts said. "It's a little bit tougher for the coaches, us being parents and just looking at your kids and thinking about your own kids being in that position. It's a little hard to stomach sometimes."
As the game wore on, Tampa Bay Tech continued to find success moving the ball on the ground, and Treshaun Ward scored the final touchdown of the night on a 13-yard dash. Hillsborough, down 12 with five minutes to play, got as close as the Tampa Bay Tech 30-yard line, but the Titan defense got big sacks late to force turnovers on downs, keeping the Terriers out of the end zone.
It may have been a while since the Titans competed, Penix said, but Friday's performance was proof that they didn't forget how it's done.
"We knew it was going to be a fight, but we were just excited to get back on the field," he said. "We were just excited to show the rest of the teams we have coming up that we didn't stop."