TAMPA — Bloomingdale used a dominant defense and an opportunistic offense in a hard-fought 22-10 victory over Plant at Dad’s Stadium on Friday.
After exchanging punts to start the game, Plant struck first on the scoreboard as senior linebacker Ben Hestorff recovered a Lance Alderson fumble and returned it 50 yards. Hayden Reed ran in the two-point conversion to give the Panthers an 8-0 lead. The Bulls put together an 11-play drive on their next possession only to see it thwarted when Plant’s Mekhi Bell intercepted Alderson in the end zone.
The score remained 8-0 until the middle of the second quarter when junior Wa’myron Howard forced Plant quarterback Tucker Gleason into intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety. The Bulls (3-1) took advantage of good field possession after the ensuing free kick. A quick five-play drive resulted in the first offensive touchdown of the game as Alderson connected with senior Gabriel Akpewero, who was wide open behind the Plant defense, on a 41-yard strike. The Bulls led 9-8 going into the half.
The Panthers (0-4) came out strong in the second half as Gleason led an 11-play drive only to see Plant lose a fumble at the 10-yard line. It was one of four turnovers created by the Bulls’ aggressive defense.
“We pride ourselves on defense at Bloomingdale," said coach Jake Coulson. “We like to bring pressure. It starts with Quinton McCoy in the middle. Our inside and outside linebackers are outstanding, and we have defensive backs that can go, man.”
Howard was one of the stars of the defense, adding a fumble recovery and two sacks to his forced safety. Senior Khalil Brown contributed an interception and fumble recovery, while Unique Lewis and Jamarion Neal also got to the quarterback.
The Bulls defense has now gone eight consecutive quarters without giving up a point.
After Plant forced a safety of its own when a low snap of a punt went through the end zone to go ahead 10-9, it was Akpewero (116 all-purpose yards) exploding through the Panther defense to put the Bulls back up 16-10.
“Gabriel is a great leader for us. He’s really bought in. He’s a great athlete and a great kid. We try to get the ball to him in different ways,” Coulson said.
Bloomingdale tacked on a touchdown after a 19-yard run by Akpewero set up a 1-yard plunge to seal the win with under two minutes left in the fourth.
The Bulls continue their challenging schedule, hosting Plant City next week while Plant takes on Washington D.C.'s Gonzaga, the ninth-ranked team in the country, according to MaxPreps.