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Tampa Catholic outkicks the competition in final two minutes

Eric Fidalgo converts the first game-winning kick of his career as the Crusaders edge Carrollwood Day.
Tampa Catholic gets the 26-25 upset of Carrollwood Day on Friday in a Class 3A, Region 3 quarterfinal.
Tampa Catholic gets the 26-25 upset of Carrollwood Day on Friday in a Class 3A, Region 3 quarterfinal. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Nov. 13
Updated Nov. 13

TAMPA — Kicking comes naturally to senior Eric Fidalgo, a long-time soccer player. He decided to try football this year, and Tampa Catholic is glad he did.

Fidalgo’s 26-yard field goal with 1:15 remaining — his second three-pointer of the game — gave the No. 6-seeded Crusaders a 26-25 upset of No. 3 Carrollwood Day on Friday in a Class 3A, Region 3 quarterfinal.

Tampa Catholic (7-3) advances to play at No. 2 Clearwater Central Catholic next week.

The Crusaders, who bolted to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, had to rally after giving up three touchdowns in three minutes, 40 seconds spanning the second and third quarters.

“Awesome game,” Tampa Catholic coach Jeris McIntyre said. “I’m out of words. These kids played their hearts out. We’re the sixth seed, (Carrollwood Day) was the higher seed, and we just came and were able to win this football game in an awesome fashion.”

Fidalgo’s field goal capped an 11-play, 72-yard drive that lasted five minutes, 31 seconds. It was orchestrated by sophomore quarterback Trey Hedden, who replaced starting senior Luke Sather after his 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by Carrollwood Day freshman DJ Pickett 20 seconds into the second half had given the Patriots (7-3) a 25-17 lead.

“(Hedden) came in and made some great plays,” McIntyre said.

On the decisive drive, Hedden’s key play was a 35-yard pass to senior Jaquise Alexander, who caught the ball over two defenders at the Carrollwood Day 22. Fidalgo ensured the victory with the first game-winning kick of his career.

“I was so nervous, but I knew I had to stay calm about it and I just made the kick,” Fidalgo said. “(The win) was almost a miracle. We made the last points in the last minute.”

Carrollwood Day got the ball one last time, moving to its 48. But two errant center snaps hurt the Patriots, and Alexander sealed the win by intercepting a pass from sophomore quarterback Jackson Jensen at the Tampa Catholic 30.

The Crusaders trailed 25-17 with 9:08 left when Hedden threw a 90-yard touchdown pass to junior Mario Mayo, who was left uncovered on the left side of the field. Tampa Catholic attempted a two-point conversion for the tie, but junior Thomas Puhek sacked Hedden.

Tampa Catholic controlled most of the first half, scoring on its first three drives for a 17-7 lead with 3:34 left. But Carrollwood Day responded with two touchdowns to grab a 19-17 lead at the intermission on an 86-yard kickoff return by sophomore CJ Lewis and a 24-yard pass from Jensen to Pickett on a fourth-and-20 play with 12 seconds left before halftime.

Juniors Lewis Carter and Carnell Herring Jr. scored Tampa Catholic’s first two touchdowns in the first quarter on runs of 2 and 4 yards, respectively.

Sophomore Anthony Carrie started Carrollwood Day’s 19-point second quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run. The Patriots went for two points after their final three touchdowns, failing to convert each time.