TAMPA — For a fleeting moment, Hunter Joyer revisited the past. Then it was time to talk about the present … and future.
Joyer, a two-way junior performer for Tampa Catholic, made the defensive play of his life Friday night, single-handedly stopping a Mulberry fourth-quarter drive as the No. 3 ranked-Crusaders rallied for a 24-14 victory and fourth consecutive district title.
Tampa Catholic (7-0, 3-0) clinched the Class 2B, District 5 crown when Lake Highland Prep defeated Avon Park 23-19.
Mulberry (2-5, 1-2) appeared on its way to snapping a 14-all tie early in the fourth with a first-and-goal at the Tampa Catholic 10-yard line. After two plays netted 1 yard, Joyer forced and recovered a fumble by Mulberry quarterback Antonio Brown. The play energized his teammates, who drove 81 yards in nine plays to take the lead on Mike Paleveda's 21-yard field goal with 4:50 remaining. Jeremi Wilkes clinched the win by returning another fumble 40 yards for a touchdown 21/2 minutes later.
"I wasn't here last year (he transferred from Wesley Chapel)," said Joyer, who also scored a touchdown. "I had never won a district, been in the playoffs or had a winning record. So this means a lot to me."
Said Tampa Catholic coach Bob Henriquez: "I told the defensive guys that we needed to get aggressive and bring a couple blitzes (on that drive). I don't think they expected us to blitz in that situation. Our sideline was in disarray in the first half; we were more calm after that."
Tampa Catholic remains in position to become the first team in school history to go undefeated. It has two games left.