VALRICO ― The offense was sputtering. The defense was showing some cracks. Bloomingdale needed a big play from someone or its narrow second-half lead over Tampa Bay Tech was in danger of slipping away.
Enter Wa’myron Howard.
With just a six-point lead late in the third quarter, the Bulls defense forced another Titans punt. But this time Howard barreled up the middle untouched, blocked the punt and recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown. From there, Bloomingdale went on to win 26-14.
This is the second straight season that Bloomingdale handed the Titans their first loss.
“The whole game their inside was weak, so I go over to Coach and tell him about it,” Howard said. “I’m like ‘Let’s run it, let’s run it.’ He finally said okay. I pretty much got a free release. My hand hit the ball and the only thing I’m thinking then is I’ve got to find the ball. I scooped and scored, and that killed all their momentum.”
The special teams touchdown made the score 19-7. Bloomingdale went on to score again in the fourth quarter before allowing a late touchdown to close the gap.
Bloomingdale coach Jake Coulson was hesitant to put the punt block on. He was finally talked into it by his assistant coaches.
“We’ve had the punt block in all week and we knew we’d have a chance some time,” Coulson said. “But I’m always scared of running into the kicker. All night I kept saying ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it.’ Finally I said ‘Okay, go get it.'”
The way the game started, it didn’t look as if the Bulls needed a big play in the second half to put the game away.
The Titans (5-1) were down two touchdowns before the offense ever got on the field.
Bloomingdale (5-1) took the opening drive and went 83 yards on five plays. On third and nine from the 31, Lance Alderson hit Gabriel Akpewero for the game’s first score. The extra-point attempt was blocked.
Tampa Bay Tech fumbled the kickoff and gave it right back to the Bulls. Alderson made that mistake hurt when he hooked up with Maurice Frost Jr. on a 27-yard touchdown pass that made it 12-0. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
When the Titans finally got the ball, they managed to get all the way to the Bloomingdale 13-yard line thanks to a 39-yard pass from David Wright to Armone Harris on third and 30. But three straight sacks forced Tampa Bay Tech to end the drive on a punt.
The Bulls had seven sacks overall.
“We just wanted to play our brand of football and play defense,” Coulson said. “We were going to play man-to-man all night and bring pressure. Block us if you can. They couldn’t do it.”
Tampa Bay Tech did make things interesting in the third quarter. With the ball on the Bulls’ 49, the Titans needed only four plays to find the end zone. Wright, who was harassed all night, found a lane and scored from 25 yards to cut the lead to 12-7.
The Titans then forced a punt and got the ball back. When that drive stalled, Bloomingdale came up with its punt block. And just for good measure, Alderson threw his third touchdown pass when he hit Javon Stephens on a 30-yard pass to make it 26-7.
The Titans scored with three minutes left when Wright hit Greg Gaines III on a 16-yarder. But that was it for the scoring.
Tampa Bay Tech has another difficult game on Friday against Armwood. Bloomingdale plays at Lakeland Kathleen.