ST. PETERSBURG — Seffner Christian locked up its place in the Class 2A, Region 3 final with a win over Northside Christian School, 49-21, on Friday night. The Crusaders next face Admiral Farragut, which topped Cambridge Christian 24-13.
All five of the Crusaders’ touchdowns on offense came from pass completions between quarterback Isaiah Knowles and receiver Michael Trigg. Their first scoring connection went for 12 yards and capped an 11-play drive late in the first quarter.
They would deliver again for 58 yards midway through the second, giving SCA a 14-0 lead. That drive had started at the Crusaders’ own 13-yard line, after their defense stopped the Mustangs offense on fourth down. Within three and a half minutes, the Crusaders doubled their advantage as they returned interceptions for touchdowns on back-to-back drives. Isaiah Reed stepped in front of the intended receiver and returned Quaid Gardner’s pass 70 yards into the end zone. The next Northside series on offense lasted just two plays. Gardner threw into the hands of defensive tackle Kendall Whiteside, who rumbled up the middle from about 10 yards and over the goal line.
Gardner did much better on the next Mustangs drive as he completed 5 of 5 passes for 62 yards, including a 29-yarder to Joel Bolds for six points.
The Crusaders got the ball back at their 48 with 32 seconds to go before halftime, and they made short work of the opportunity. Knowles completed three passes, including a 33-yarder to Trigg for another touchdown with less than five seconds to go. With the PAT, SCA led 35-7 at the break.
Twice in the second half, the Mustangs fought to within 21 points. Tre’quan Hilton had a 15-yard scoring run and Gardner ran up the middle for a 7-yard TD late in the third quarter.
After Gardner’s score, the Mustangs defense came up big when it forced the Crusaders to turn the ball over on downs, stopping a long drive at the Northside 29. But their offense was unable to convert a first down, and the Crusaders took possession at the Mustangs’ 34. The ensuing four-play drive ended with Knowles finding Trigg near the left side of the end zone for a 13-yard score with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. That final touchdown effectively ended the Mustangs’ chances of mounting an improbable comeback.
Northside had a few other notable moments on defense, including an interception by Clayton Delarbre when the Mustangs were trailing just 7-0. And Zuri Watson recovered a fumble in third quarter, a play that led to Hilton’s touchdown.
The Mustangs were able to keep the game’s outcome in doubt until very late, and Northside coach Mike Alstott noted the effort.
“That’s the way we’ve been all year, and I’m just so proud of our team,” said Alstott. “We’re a young football team, and these guys will be back.”