ST. PETERSBURG — Northside Christian muscled past resilient but outmatched Keswick Christian on its way to a 71-44 victory Monday night.
The Class 2A, Region 3 game, which was a continuation of Friday’s weather-delayed contest, began with 10:15 on the clock in the first quarter. Keswick Christian struck first when Silas Schoel completed a 15-yard TD pass to Tilon Thompson for a 6-0 lead.
The Mustangs responded with touchdowns on their next two possessions in the first quarter: Quarterback Quaid Gardner ran for scores of 20 and 33 yards. Both teams had back-to-back turnovers, but it was Northside Christian (6-2) that cashed in. Zuri Watson picked up a Crusaders fumble and ran it back 35 yards to extend the Mustangs’ lead to 22-6.
Schoel then connected with Maverick Fulvi for a 76-yard scoring play that brought Keswick Christian (5-3) within eight points. Schoel completed 14-of-25 for 209 yards and four touchdowns on the night, including three to Fulvi.
A few minutes into the second period, Gardner added a 1-yard scoring run that extended the Mustangs’ advantage to 29-14. He finished the night 7-for-13, including one passing TD, and 108 yards.
Teammate Tre'quan Hilton also had a big night, rushing for 260 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. Two of his scores came in the second half, on runs of 27 and 35 yards. The 27-yarder came after Keswick Christian closed the gap to 50-32 on a 28-yard Schoel-to-Fulvi score with 4:34 remaining in the third.
"If the other team decides to keep their foot on the gas, I'm going to keep my foot on mine," said Hilton. "I want to make my mom proud."
The Mustangs’ Anthony Suttle had the first points of the second half when he scooped up a Crusaders fumble and returned it 40 yards. On the Crusaders’ next drive, Thompson responded with a 4-yard touchdown. Just seconds after Hilton’s 27-yard score, Thompson added an 80-yard kickoff return into the end zone and brought Keswick Christian to within 57-38 with still a full quarter to play.
Following Hilton's 35-yard TD run in the fourth, Gardner connected with Azari Davis for a 7-yard score. With the PAT, Northside Christian led 71-38.
Keswick Christian running back Max Melcher had the game’s final points when he ran 7 yards into the end zone with 2:36 to go in the game.