TAMPA — The runnerup position in Class 3A, District 5 and a postseason berth were on the line in Friday night's matchup between Tampa Catholic and Berkeley Prep.
Only one team proved to be poised for the playoffs.
Tampa Catholic showcased a balanced offensive attack, moving the ball at will. And the Crusaders defense gave up yardage but held when it mattered.
The result? A 33-7 Tampa Catholic victory that puts the Crusaders back in the playoffs after missing out last season. TC has qualified for the postseason seven of the past eight years.
"Overall, it was a total team victory," Tampa Catholic coach Bob Henriquez said. "That's what we need at this point. It's good to be back in the playoffs."
TC (7-2, 2-1) scored on four straight possessions in the first half. T.J. Harrell capped a seven-play, 79-yard drive late in the first quarter with a 7-yard run for a 7-0 lead. Kenny Bryant outraced the Buccaneers defense 63 yards on the next possession to open up a 13-0 advantage.
"I got the handoff, and I saw nobody there," said Bryant, who finished with 126 yards on 13 carries. "I just cut up and was like, 'Nobody should catch me.' "
The next offensive play for Tampa Catholic also resulted in a touchdown after a 15-yard punt. From the Buccaneers' 32, Mitchell Norden faked a handoff on a zone-read play and ran untouched into the end zone.
"We put in a few wrinkles," Henriquez said. "This is a team, Berkeley, that is so disciplined. They scout you so well. … They're going to have all your tendencies down, so we threw a few curveballs tonight."
Berkeley Prep (6-3, 1-2) scored its only points on the opening drive of the second half, going 73 yards in 13 plays in 7:19 before Chris Williams plunged 3 yards into the end zone.
"We're going to make plays, we're going to give up plays but it's all about how you get back up," said Harrell, who forced two fumbles.
Berkeley Prep will miss the postseason for the first time since 2008.