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Tampa Bay Tech makes the most of Gaither’s miscues

Two Cowboys fumbles deep in their own territory allow the Titans to turn a one-touchdown lead into a three-score advantage.
Tampa Bay Tech defeated Gaither 28-14.
Tampa Bay Tech defeated Gaither 28-14. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sep. 25

TAMPA — It was anybody’s game through the first half of Tampa Bay Tech’s matchup with Gaither, as forced turnovers and stout defenses set an early tone.

Then the Cowboys got in their own way.

Late in the third quarter, the Titans quickly turned a lead of one touchdown into three when Gaither had two fumbles deep in its own territory and Tampa Bay Tech’s Ronald Sims cashed in on both. The senior running back had three of the Titans’ four touchdowns Friday as Tampa Bay Tech cruised past the Cowboys 28-14.

“He’s part of the one-two in our one-two punch,” Tampa Bay Tech coach Jayson Roberts said. “(Running back) James (Evans) has been so dynamic for us in the first couple of weeks, and sometimes 28, Ronald, gets a little overshadowed,. When he comes in, he’s downhill and productive, and he really kind of took that role on (Friday) as being the workhorse for us.”

Gaither (3-2) took an early lead in the first quarter when quarterback Brooks Bentley connected with wide receiver Eugene Wilson III for a 7-yard touchdown. The Titans responded shortly before halftime when Sims scored his first touchdown on a 27-yard run. He finished with 64 yards on the ground.

The Gaither defensive line gave Titan quarterback Xavione Washington trouble throughout the night, including a sack for a big loss late in the third quarter. But on the very next play, Washington lobbed a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Greg Gaines III, who caught the ball through double coverage in the end zone.

That was the start of a momentum the Titans would never lose.

Tampa Bay Tech (4-0) forced a three-and-out on Gaither’s next possession, and the punter fumbled the ball on the Cowboys’ 4-yard line, setting up Sims’ short-yardage score. He’d score again from one yard out after Gaither fumbled on its next possession.

“It feels great,” Sims said of his first ever three-score night. “I’ve got to give a big shout out to my O-line. ... They were opening the holes so big, making it easy for me.”

Gaither tried to force its way back in late. Bentley threw another touchdown pass, this one for two yards, in the fourth quarter. But as the minutes dwindled, the Cowboys quarterback tried to make more happen through the air. Tampa Bay Tech’s defense wasn’t having it, and Bentley completed just two of his final six passes.

“I’ll tell anybody that will listen to me, Michael Boone is the best cornerback in Florida,” Roberts said. “Week in and week out, we give him the task of whoever the other team’s best receiver is. All our guys on our secondary played tremendous tonight.”