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Tampa Bay Tech on firmer footing in second half vs. Newsome

A muddy field and tendency to fumble can’t slow down the Titans from notching their 16th regular-season win in a row.
On an incredibly muddy field, Tampa Bay Tech defensive end Tre Jacobs takes off on a long run after picking up one of three lost fumbles for Newsome.
On an incredibly muddy field, Tampa Bay Tech defensive end Tre Jacobs takes off on a long run after picking up one of three lost fumbles for Newsome. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Sep. 10

VALRICO — Tampa Bay Tech didn’t let a challenging week of weather or a muddy field Friday night stop its streak.

Senior quarterback Xavione Washington accounted for three touchdowns and junior running back Rod Gainey Jr. rushed for 180 yards on 13 carries and a score as Tampa Bay Tech defeated Newsome 28-3 in a battle of unbeatens.

For the Titans (3-0), it was their 16th consecutive regular-season win since 2020, when they dropped a 43-42 decision to Plant City on the final play of the game. Newsome slipped to 2-1.

Both teams had to deal with a wet field, and they combined for 11 fumbles — eight by Tampa Bay Tech. Each team lost the ball three times, and the Titans also had a pass picked off. But Tampa Bay Tech kept putting pressure on the Wolves, marching into Newsome territory on eight of its nine possessions.

“In the second half, the defense really bounced back,” Tampa Bay Tech coach Jayson Roberts said. “We made some adjustments, and (Newsome) was having success in the first half with some things.

“In practice this week, it was tough with lightning and the heat index being too hard. But the guys did a great job of picking up the install in the walk-throughs and applied it (Friday).”

Tampa Bay Tech quarterback Xavione Washington lets fly a pass during a 28-3 victory over host Newsome.
Tampa Bay Tech quarterback Xavione Washington lets fly a pass during a 28-3 victory over host Newsome. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

Tampa Bay Tech broke open a tight game after taking a 7-3 lead into intermission. All three lost Newsome fumbles came in the second half, the first one coming on the Wolves’ first series in the third quarter.

After Newsome converted a fourth down to the Titans 44, Tampa Bay Tech senior linebacker Corey Lucius Jr. recovered a fumble by Wolves senior quarterback Christian Bishop at the Tampa Bay Tech 35. Four plays later, Washington scored on a 3-yard run to cap a four-play, 65-yard drive, a series fueled by runs of 22 and 43 yards by Gainey.

The Titans weren’t threatened after that as Washington connected with junior wide receiver Javion McKay for two fourth-quarter touchdown passes covering 40 and 20 yards. Washington wound up completing 11 of 15 passes for 182 yards. His favorite target was sophomore wide receiver Dallas Wilson, who caught six balls for 109 yards.

Gainey’s touchdown, a 79-yard sprint, gave Tampa Bay Tech the lead for good at 7-0 with 6:46 left before halftime — capping a four-play, 92-yard march. Newsome answered with its only points of the night on a 34-yard field goal by junior DJ Page.

Sophomores Tre Jacobs and Mekhi Johnson had the Titans’ other fumble recoveries.

For Newsome, senior Jordan Preseau had two fumble recoveries, and senior Evan Mitchum pounced on a loose Tampa Bay Tech ball. Junior Jonathan Kerce contributed an interception for the Wolves, who have not defeated the Titans since 2013. The series is now tied at four wins apiece.

Javion McKay, holding the ball, gets congratulated after hauling in a long touchdown pass.
Javion McKay, holding the ball, gets congratulated after hauling in a long touchdown pass. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
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