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Football: Steinbrenner 29, Hillsborough 15

The Terriers finish with nine turnovers, and the Warriors certainly take advantage of the miscues.
Steinbrenner's Austin Brannen pounces on a fumble by Hillsborough's Demarion Hopkins. The Terriers had a hard time holding onto the ball Friday night. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
Steinbrenner's Austin Brannen pounces on a fumble by Hillsborough's Demarion Hopkins. The Terriers had a hard time holding onto the ball Friday night. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Published Sep. 21, 2019

TAMPA — Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia, the winningest high school coach in Tampa Bay, has seen more than his fair share of games. He was pretty blunt after his team’s 29-15 loss to Steinbrenner.

“We set offensive football back 100 years,” he said.

Friday night’s game was certainly not one for the vault.

The Terriers (2-2) turned the ball over nine times, six on fumbles, and had 113 penalty yards. Steinbrenner (5-0) turned three of those turnovers into points. But the Warriors also had 115 penalty yards of their own, which kept the game closer than it should have been.

Hillsborough gave the ball away four times in the first half, and two of those led to points. On their second play from scrimmage, the Terriers fumbled on their own 45. The Warriors took advantage by putting together a nine-play drive that ended with Haden Carlson hitting Aidan Bitter on a 10-yard touchdown pass. The extra point failed.

That lead did not last long. Erriyon Knighton raced 87 yards on the first play of the second drive to make it 7-6. That turned out to be the biggest play — by far — of the night for the Terriers.

Steinbrenner's Dean Patterson, left, and Carson Franks congratulate Aidan Bitter on his first-half touchdown reception. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

On their first drive of the second quarter, the Warriors scored again. This time, Deon Silas ran it in from 14 yards. The two-point try failed, so the score was 12-7.

Hillsborough struck quickly. An 80-yard kick return put the ball on the Steinbrenner 10. On fourth and goal from the 5, quarterback Jordaan Bailey ran it in to make the score 13-12.

Then another Hillsborough mistake led to points. Matt Durrance picked off a Bailey pass with just over a minute left. Four plays later, Brady Nugent kicked a 25-yard field goal for a 15-13 halftime lead.

That was the first of three interceptions for Durrance.

“I had three interceptions all of last year,” Durrance said. “We know what we have to do to win and sometimes the defense has to step up. The offense did its job and we did our job.”

Fittingly, a turnover started the second half. Hillsborough fumbled on its own 22-yard line. It only took four plays before Carlson scored from 3 yards to extend the lead to 22-13.

Steinbrenner's Deon Silas looks for running room against Hillsborough. [LUIS SANTANA | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times]

The only real positive in the second half for Hillsborough came after an interception. Steinbrenner got the ball at its own 9 and was forced to punt from its 5-yard line. A bad snap forced the punter to step on the end line for a safety. That put Hillsborough within a touchdown. But after that, the Terriers punted, fumbled, threw an interception and fumbled again.

After a fumble to start the fourth quarter, Steinbrenner put the game out of reach. With the ball at their own 8, the Warriors drove the length of the field, with Carlson hitting Silas on a perfectly placed 15-yard pass in the corner of the end zone. Carlson, who ended the night with 174 passing yards, converted a 28-yard pass on third and 20 to keep the drive alive.

That essentially put the game out of reach.

Steinbrenner didn’t score again, but it didn’t have to. On a last-ditch drive late in the game, Hillsborough got to the Steinbrenner 29, but the drive ended with a sixth fumble.

“We were playing rugby and they were playing football,” Garcia said. “The new season starts tomorrow. We’ll be alright. Just one of those nights.”


  1. Elaine Jeffers, left, and mom Jennifer are all smiles in their pirate and parrot costumes after finishing the 15K and 5K races Saturday morning. Today, both Elaine, 33, and Jennifer, 60, will run their 61st half-marathon.
  2. Joe Conrad, at the mere age of 90 in the orange hat, crosses the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K finish line with 30 of his relatives: kids, grandkids and so on. Conrad, who has set several age-group records at races the past few decades, finished in 59 minutes, 28 seconds, but he did, of course, benefit from all the pacers around him.
  3. Cambridge Christian runner Reed Legg finishes first (15:29) during Saturday's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K.
  4. Tampa Bay Tech, still missing star sophomore Janiah Barker, falters in the region final Friday, but if healthy should make another deep playoff run next season.
  5. After its 3-1 victory over Westminster Academy of Fort Lauderdale on Friday, the Shorecrest girls soccer team  will be playing in the program's first state final next week in Deland.
  6. Land O' Lakes may have fallen one game short of a state final, but, as coach Jen Craven says: “We have some good kids coming from the local middle school. Looking forward, I don’t see any reason why you won’t see us in the show next year."
  7. Carrollwood Day's Weeyah McGill, seen here during last year's state tournament, was dominant Friday against Seffner Christian.
  8. Plant senior Honor Culpepper, seen here earlier this season, scores a game-high 20 points in Friday's Class 7A region final victory.
  9. Coach Karrmayne King hugs Keswick Christian player Marissa McCauley after the Crusaders soundly defeat Hernando Christian to advance to state.
  10. Tampa Catholic senior Tony Watson, right, provided a huge spark during a 3-0 victory over Windermere Prep in a Class 3A region final Wednesday night.
  11. After a standout sophomore season, expectations are even higher for Osceloa pitcher Corey Braun.
  12. Admiral Farragut pitcher Bre Benefield fires an early pitch during a Class 3A state semifinal against University Christian last season.