TAMPA — Another year, another win for Jesuit over rival Tampa Catholic.
For the 18th straight time, the Tigers defeated the Crusaders, this time 35-7 in a game that was tied at halftime. This was the second game of the week for Jesuit, which was coming off a one-point overtime loss to district rival Jefferson and had only one full practice before Friday. Tampa Catholic was on a six-game win streak and hadn't allowed a touchdown in five games, but none of that mattered.
"It's always supposed to be the time that Tampa Catholic is supposed to win," Jesuit senior linebacker Braden Gilby said. "This is just a great way for me to go out in my senior year. I couldn't ask for a better game."
Gilby played a big role in the first half.
He accounted for the Tigers' only first-half score on a blocked punt. On Tampa Catholic's first possession, it was forced to punt from its 36. Gilby rushed up the middle untouched and blocked the rugby-style punt. He then picked up the ball and ran into the end zone to make it 7-0.
That lead stood until the final seconds of the first half. After throwing an interception on the last possession, Crusaders quarterback Charlie Dean put it together on the final drive. On the sixth play of the drive, Dean hit Ahmarean Brown in the left corner of the end zone with 27 seconds left for a 34-yard touchdown. The score was tied 7-7.
Any momentum the Crusaders had went away early in the third. After Dean threw his third interception, this one picked off by Dane Belton, freshman Ricky Parks broke a 43-yard touchdown run and Jesuit had its seven-point lead back. It was the first offensive touchdown Tampa Catholic had given up in five games.
The second one they gave up came late in the third. Freshman quarterback Enzo Tedesco found tight end Jonathan Odom open down the middle for a 28-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds left in the third to make it 21-7. It was Tedesco's second touchdown pass all season. Odom scored again in the fourth quarter on a 14-yard pass from Larry Hodges. Hodges, then finished the scoring with an 8-yard run.
"We were struggling on offense," Jesuit coach Matt Thompson said. "I don't know if we just wore them out or what. They were cramping up and our guys were fresh. We're battle tested. We went through a gauntlet of tough teams."
Jesuit's defense was suffocating all night, but especially in the second half. Tampa Catholic was held to just 133 total yards and 53 yards passing.
Both teams will head to the playoffs next week. For Tampa Catholic it must regroup after a loss to their rival. Again.
"It's the same message every year," Tampa Catholic coach Mike Gregory said. "We've just got to move on. It's a new season now. We have a 12-hour rule anyway. Win or lose we forget about it after 12 hours."