TAMPA — Lately, Tampa Bay Tech has grown accustomed to relying on its defense to win football games, boasting a stifling defensive line that’s been known to stop teams in their tracks.
Friday, the Armwood passing attack seemed to stump Tampa Bay Tech from the start. So instead, the Titans relied on James Evans III.
The senior running back scored four touchdowns and led a Titan offense that rushed for 231 yards on the way to a 34-26 victory.
“He’s been the workhorse, running behind the life force of this team, our offensive line,” Tampa Bay Tech coach Jayson Roberts said. “James, the way that he prepares ... is why he performs the way he does on Friday nights.”
Tampa Bay Tech wasted no time getting on the board, capping its first drive of the night with a 1-yard touchdown run from Evans. The Titans scored on all four of their first-half possessions; Evans with touchdown runs of 1, 3 and 15 yards, and quarterback Xavione Washington with his own of 14.
Armwood, though, stayed within reach. The Hawks evened the score in the first quarter after quarterback Murdolph Jones connected with Malik Brown on a 59-yard touchdown pass, and they linked up again just before the half on a 3-yard score.
After the break, Jones, who threw for 307 yards against the Titans, only picked up speed.
Jones was 4-of-5 for 80 yards on Armwood’s opening drive of the second half, eventually connecting with Girard Pringle for an 11-yard touchdown. The Hawks (4-2) made it a one-score game shortly after, recovering a Tampa Bay Tech fumble to set up Jones’ 80-yard touchdown pass to Brown.
As Tampa Bay Tech (5-0) watched the lead nearly slip away, Evans continued his banner night on the ensuing drive, catching a 15-yard pass at midfield for a game-changing third-down conversion. Washington made a couple big plays of his own to follow, setting up Evans’ fourth touchdown of the night on a 1-yard run and giving the Titans the comfortable lead they held until the end.
The last time Evans had four touchdowns in one game, he was playing youth football for the Pinecrest Pilots, he said. This time, it was even sweeter.
“It feels good to help out my team. … We came through, pushed through, and came out on top,” said Evans, who came into the game with 550 rushing yards on the season. “They kept crashing down, so I just used that to my advantage and slipped through, got as many yards as I could for my team and went from there.”
In recent years, Armwood, its pair of state titles and countless championship game appearances have reigned over Hillsborough County football. Slowly but surely, Roberts said, his team has crept their way into the conversation.
These days, though, the Titans aren’t being so quiet about it.
“I don’t want to speak too soon, but this is the second year in a row that we’ve beat them, and this is the third out of the last four times we’ve played them and we’ve won,” Roberts said. “We definitely know who they are, and respect who they are. They’re a state power, year in and year out. But we like to think that we’re up there with them.”