TAMPA — The early evening downpour and accompanying flickers of lightning were only part of the imperfect storm Jesuit coach Matt Thompson had to weather Thursday night.
Before his team's preseason classic, Thompson learned offensive coordinator Chris Taylor would be absent because of a job conflict. Then came a 70-minute weather delay, then a costly fumble, followed by a special teams breakdown.
When the deluge ended, Jesuit had — for all intents — fallen to Palm Harbor University. Officially, the Tigers prevailed 19-14, courtesy of freshman Malik Davis' 50-yard fourth-quarter TD on a punt return, but the Hurricanes had inserted their junior varsity by then.
In the three-quarter varsity faceoff, PHU triumphed 14-10.
"We've got a long ways to go," said Thompson, who handed offensive play-calling duties off to Vinny Testaverde. "At times we did some things well and did a lot of things that we need to clean up, but we'll get it cleaned up."
Using a variety of run-oriented backfield formations, Jesuit's varsity outgained the Hurricanes 191-69, and had 10 first downs to PHU's three. But a Tigers fumble inside their 15 led to PHU's first touchdown, and a 79-yard punt return by Dominic Bonelli set up the visitors' other score.
The Hurricanes also ended a six-minute Jesuit drive with a stop on fourth and 3 at the PHU 25.
"My biggest thing is, I was wondering how my kids would react — playing on turf, a beautiful stadium, 120 (Jesuit) kids come out," PHU coach Matt LePain said. "But they played well; I was pretty happy."
Senior kicker Rhett Waldron nailed a 47-yard field goal for the Tigers' first points. Bonelli answered with his long return, setting up quarterback Tyler Kaminski's 13-yard scoring keeper, making it 14-3.
Jesuit then responded with its lone offensive TD, a 2-yard Kevin Newman scoring run.