LAKELAND — Calvary Christian coach Todd Yoder knew a road game against Lakeland Christian would be a challenge. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end and his Warriors were up to the task on Friday, defeating the Vikings 24-10 in a Class 3A region semifinal for the first playoff victory in school history.
"This is only our second time in the playoffs, our first time in 3A. It’s a huge win for the school"
After a scoreless first quarter, senior quarterback Alex Laccabue capped a 15-play drive by scoring on a 4-yard quarterback draw to put Calvary (7-2) up 7-0. Lakeland Christian drove to the 1-yard line on the following possession, but a fumble resulted in an 18-yard loss and forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal and a 7-3 halftime score.
Lakeland Christian (8-2) resorted to trickery in the third quarter and fooled the Warriors when a halfback option pass from Jovanni Canegitta to wide open Trent Mason went for a 59-yard touchdown, giving the Vikings a 10-7 lead.
Calvary answered on the following possession when Aaron Shahriari nailed a 52-yard field goal to tie the score at 10.
On the next possession, senior athlete Amari Burney, a Florida commit, made perhaps the biggest play of the season for the Warriors, intercepting a tipped pass and making several nifty moves before falling into the end zone to give Calvary a 17-10 lead.
"Just when we needed it most, Amari Burney stepped up with the pick-six. I think that was the turning point of the game," Yoder said.
In the fourth quarter, Calvary turned to running back Jordan Niles. The 5-foot-8, 170-pound sophomore was a workhorse for the Warriors, finishing with 15 carries for 78 yards and icing the game with a 10-yard touchdown scamper with just under two minutes left to play. All of Niles’ carries came in the second half.
Calvary will face crosstown rival Clearwater Central Catholic in the region final. The Warriors fell 23-14 to the Marauders earlier in the season.