ST. PETERSBURG — During a disrupted period as the last six months have been, a heightened level of commitment to the cause can make a huge difference.
Just ask Cambridge Christian. After suffering a disappointing playoff loss on its last journey to Pinellas County, the Lancers put their noses to the grindstone early to make sure the 2020 season started right. Behind a positive contribution from a youthful set of skill position players and an aggressive defense, Cambridge Christian shook off a pair of turnovers to humble host St. Petersburg Catholic 42-7 Friday night.
“We put in a lot of work, especially over the summer,” sophomore quarterback Chris Stephenson said. “We ran over almost all of our plays and that was good. It helped us a lot.”
Stephenson cracked the whip on a four-cylinder ground attack that took the Barons out of the game by halftime, down 34-0:
• Freshman running back Kaden Brown had a game-high 120 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.
• Junior Jaiden Bivens added 115 yards and a touchdown on just nine touches.
• Sophomore Josiah Thomas added 57 second-half yards on four carries.
• And Stephenson had great run-option reads en route to a 59-yard, three-touchdown evening.
In all, the Lancers blasted off for 292 yards on the ground and 397 total.
“We missed most of our first practice due to storms, but the effort these guys put in day in and day out, the way they re-focus and get their work in, they’ve done a great job,” first-year Lancers coach Chad Walker said. “We’re extremely excited about the young guys, but the thing is, we have great senior leadership in all three phases of the game.”
Senior linebackers Noah Kent and Ethan Edmunds helmed a fast-moving defense that shackled St. Petersburg Catholic to just 38 first-half yards and 135 overall.
To their credit, the Barons never packed it in as an interception by sophomore Chris Previtera turned into an impressive 27-yard, fourth-down touchdown catch by senior Martel Mott to snap the shutout, with Xavier Burks adding a fumble recovery in his own end zone to temporarily keep the Lancers at bay.
“(After losing to Admiral Farragut at the end of last year,) I had a chip on my shoulder,” Stephenson said. “It motivated me a lot to grow, especially as a passer, and I worked a lot on my throwing skills. I wanted to come out and ball out.”
“After the turnovers, we talked about attacking Murphy,” Walker added. “Murphy’s Law — what can go wrong will go wrong — is just one of those things. We’ll learn from it and grow from it. Overall, it was a pretty exciting start.”