SARASOTA — Senior Haden Carlson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Steinbrenner’s dream season continued with a 27-24 win over Class 8A, Region 2 top seed Sarasota Riverview in a wild and dramatic back-and-forth affair at the Ram Bowl on Friday night.
Steinbrenner opened scoring in the first quarter as Carlson (22-of-39, 300 yards) connected with junior Deon Silas on a 45-yard toss down to the Rams’ 3-yard line. Silas (100 all-purpose yards) scored on a 1-yard dive two plays later to give the Warriors an early 6-0 lead as the extra point was no good.
The Rams answered early in the second quarter as a fumbled exchange on a fourth and 1 by the Warriors resulted in a turnover on downs. Riverview senior quarterback Sean White led a 12-play, 72-yard drive, calling his own number on a 4-yard score for a 7-6 Ram lead.
Steinbrenner scored again on the next drive as Carlson carved up the Riverview defense, eventually finding Iowa State commit Aiden Bitter (nine receptions, 140 yards) from 15 yards out on a perfectly thrown fade to put the Warriors back on top 13-7.
“Haden came through in a big way. That’s what you expect from your senior quarterback. You have to give credit to the guys up front grinding it out, too. None of the passes and catches would have happened without them,” said Warriors coach Andres Perez.
At the end of the second quarter, it was the Rams embarking on an 87-yard drive aided by a pair of Steinbrenner personal foul penalties and culminating with a Michael Hayes touchdown from 5 yards out and a 14-13 Riverview lead at the half.
The Warriors took the lead back in the third quarter as Carlson connected with senior Jonathan Mallan from 12 yards out to give Steinbrenner a 20-14 lead.
Riverview immediately regained momentum on the first play of their subsequent drive, as Hayes hit younger brother Omari Hayes on a halfback reverse pass from 80 yards out to put Riverview on top 21-20, the sixth lead change of the game.
Dorian Hall knocked through a 24-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter to set up a dramatic final frame.
A Steinbrenner three-and-out followed by a poor punt gave Riverview excellent field position at the Warriors’ 37. A stand by Steinbrenner set up Riverview’s Dorian Hall for a 53-yard field goal. The wind-aided kick had plenty of leg but was wide left.
“We put our defense in a few tough situations, but the answered the call every time,” said Perez.
Steinbrenner took over at its own 20 and marched 74 yards, setting up a first and goal at the 6-yard line. Carlson converted on a key third-down toss to Bitter, Mallan and Silas on the drive.
Mallan rushed three times, getting down to the 1-yard line, setting up a fourth and goal with under four minutes left. After a pair of offside penalties, Carlson sneaked in for the final margin.
Riverview wasn’t finished. A 69-yard kickoff return put the Rams in great field position at the Warriors’ 19-yard line, however a penalty, a poor snap and tough Steinbrenner defense backed Riverview up to the 40. Hall attempted a 57-field goal that was again wide left as the Warriors hung on for the win.
“This was a playoff battle. This is what high school football is supposed to be. These kids wanted it so bad. They fought like heck. One team has to come out on top. Tonight, it happened to be us. I couldn’t be more proud of our kids," Perez said.
Steinbrenner will travel to Kissimmee to face Osceola next.
All games 7:30 p.m. next Friday.
Class 2A, Region 3
• No. 4 Admiral Farragut at No. 3 Seffner Christian
Class 3A, Region 3
• No. 5 Clearwater Central Catholic at No. 2 Fort Myers Bishop Verot
Class 4A, Region 3
• No. 3 Tampa Catholic at No. 1 Lakewood
Class 5A, Region 3
• No. 4 Jesuit at No. 2 Lake Wales
Class 6A, Region 2
• No. 3 Lake Minneola at No. 1 Gaither
Class 7A, Region 2
• No. 2 Lakeland at No. 1 Armwood
Class 8A, Region 2
• No. 4 Steinbrenner at No. 3 Kissimmee Osceola