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Class 2A: Northside Christian 41, Cambridge Christian 11

 
Northside Christian coach Mike Alstott hoists senior Dillan Davis in the air after the clock expires and the Mustangs make the state semifinals. (Andy Warrener, Special to the Times)
Northside Christian coach Mike Alstott hoists senior Dillan Davis in the air after the clock expires and the Mustangs make the state semifinals. (Andy Warrener, Special to the Times)
Published Nov. 19, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Driven to avenge a frustrating playoff loss to Cambridge Christian last year, Northside Christian instead got off to a rough start Friday night.

But the Mustangs finished strong, rattling off 34 unanswered points in a near-perfect first half on both sides of the ball to pull away for a surprisingly easy 41-11 victory.

Northside Christian (10-2) travels to Hialeah to take on Champagnat, a 13-0 victor over Naples First Baptist, in its first-ever Class 2A state semifinal next week.

Thirty-one yards in Mustang penalties made a short field even shorter for the Lancers (9-1), who cashed in on a fine 18-yard line-drive pass from quarterback Jaylin Jackson to Caleb Faris. Even a poor snap on the point-after went Cambridge's way as holder Jackson swept in for the two-point conversion.

But from there, almost everything Northside Christian did succeeded — starting with quarterback Griffin Alstott.

The senior drew his squad close with a 1-yard sneak midway through the first quarter, then filled the air with footballs to the tune of a 15-for-23, 201-yard, five-touchdown effort.

"Us seniors didn't want the season to end," Alstott said. "We knew what we had to do. We had a great week of practice and we all knew how much this game meant to us."

Kamen Wilmington — graduating this school year after starting at Northside as a kindergartner — hauled in the first Alstott touchdown on a 3-yard toss. Then came junior Corey Yawn, who was wide open for a 38-yard strike early in the second quarter. The final three went to senior Derrick Wright, who finished with 100 yards on eight receptions.

Add in 129 ground yards from Marcus Hooks on 20 carries and Northside was clicking on all cylinders.

"Griffin reads the defenses and puts us in situations to succeed," Mustangs coach Mike Alstott said. "They're not (the coaches') calls. He studies very hard, makes great decisions and the (receivers) are doing the job getting … yards after the catch."

And every offensive success was buttressed by the same from the defense. A sack and several huge tackles from Tah'Shim Knight personally crushed four Lancer drives. Defensive tackle Cody Conti, also a kindergarten-to-senior Mustang, was immovable. Wilmington and Jaylen Bowden added late-game interceptions.

"When you can hold a high-powered offense like Cambridge Christian, who was averaging 40 points a game, to just 11, you're doing something right," Mike Alstott said.

"I don't believe one person predicted us to win (Friday night) and that p----- us off," Griffin Alstott added. "We took that personally."