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Tampa Bay Tech comes oh so close to upsetting defending state champ

The Titans aren’t intimidated by powerhouse Lakeland, always within striking distance (if not in the lead) before falling by a touchdown.
High school football teams around Tampa Bay competed in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. [Times]
High school football teams around Tampa Bay competed in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. [Times]
Published Nov. 16, 2019

LAKELAND — Facing a Lakeland team that had won every game this year by an average margin of 41 points, Tampa Bay Tech came closer than any other team to pulling off the upset Friday and, for that, Titans coach Jayson Roberts found solace in his players’ efforts.

“I know, going into this week, no one gave us a shot of being within three touchdowns of these guys,” Roberts said. “And these guys took it as a personal challenge and I’m so proud of the effort that came out.”

Reveling in its underdog status and capitalizing on costly Lakeland penalties, Tampa Bay Tech used a turnover and a recovered onside kick to take a 23-21 lead early in the third quarter. But Lakeland (12-0), led by star rusher Demarkcus Bowman, rallied to hold off the Titans (8-4) for a 37-30 victory in a Class 7A, Region 2 semifinal.

“We were in the lead at one point but we didn’t hang on,” Roberts said. “I couldn’t put in words how proud how I am of this team.”

Early on, Lakeland’s hopes were kept alive by Bowman. The Dreadnaughts committed 10 first-half penalties for 103 yards, but Bowman’s three first-half touchdowns kept them ahead 21-13 at halftime. When Tech offensive lineman Michael Moment opened the third quarter with a pick-six, the Titans electrified their fan contingent by recovering the onside kick.

Facing fourth and goal at Lakeland’s 6-yard and trailing 21-20, Roberts decided to bring in Andrew Alhomsi for a 25-yard field-goal attempt that gave his team the lead, albeit briefly.

“I’m kinda kicking myself not going for the touchdown, but but hindsight’s always 20-20,” Roberts said.

On the following drive, Bowman added his fourth touchdown of the game to re-take Lakeland’s lead. He finished the game with 176 rushing yards and has 23 touchdowns this season.

With 1:02 left, the Titans came within seven points on Daunte Harris’ touchdown catch. Though it was the most points scored by a Lakeland opponent this season, the Titans were out of timeouts and out of time.

“This was a playoff game so we put everything on the line,” Osmanis Aguilera said, who finished with 138 rushing yards and one touchdown. “We wanted to win, it was neck and neck. It was physical, they’re the defending state champs and we almost hung in there.”

Region finals

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


  1. You'll find Chimera Iloanya and Seffner Christian at the Lakewood MLK Holiday Classic this weekend. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Looking for some stellar hoops matchups this holiday weekend? Hosts Lakewood and Chamberlain have you covered.
  2. Hillsborough senior forward Cantia Rahming, right, is among the nation's leaders in rebounds per game. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The senior has been a menace on the boards after missing out on significant playing time in last year’s run to the state final four.
  3. In his one season at Middleton, Mike Williams led the grieving Tigers to a 5-5 record. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The former Plant High player takes over for David Mitchell, who steps down to deal with health issues in his family.
  4. Florida receiver Josh Hammond (18) on the field during practice for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Plus Plant High product Jake Fruhmorgen’s journey from Clemson to UF to Baylor to the East-West Shrine Game.
  5. Justin Lucena has been with Sunlake since he was a freshman, enduring losing seasons before the recent turnaround. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Seahawks endured years of losses but confidence is high in this group that a playoff run, and possibly a district title, are in reach.
  6. Teammates watch as Lakewood's Elijah Jackson leaps from near the free-throw line as he goes up for a slam dunk during practice. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    No matter how tight a game, the green light is always on for the Spartans boys basketball team, a state title contender again, to rattle the rim.
  7. University of Florida commit Alexa Goldberg is a veteran presence for a St. Petesrburg team that hopes to return to the state final four. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The Green Devils’ roster may not be the same, but there is still that mix of youth and experience that served them well a year ago.
  8. Marcellus Crutchfield was just one Tampa Catholic player whose family recently hosted Australian players from a prominent Catholic school in Melbourne. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    The Crusaders are the perfect hosts for a Catholic school team from Australia that is enamored of the American game.
  9. Dionte Blanch, right, and East Lake remain on top of our rankings after running their unbeaten mark to 15-0. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    East Lake, the last remaining unbeaten team in the area, remains in the top spot for the second straight week.
  10. Tampa Prep's Kailyn Gilbert (2), center, charges past Wesley Chapel's Ameria Christopher (5) during a game earlier this season. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    When it comes to scoring and rebounding, these three girls and guys are among tops in the state. And word to the wise: Stay out of Kailyn Gilbert’s way.