PLANT CITY — Tampa Bay Tech coach Jayson Roberts said his defense has played a large part in the team's success this season. On Friday it showed.
Tampa Bay Tech's defense forced five fumbles and recovered them all, including two returned for touchdowns, in a 38-21 victory against the Raiders.
Senior linebacker Fred Russ had a pair of sacks, registered double digits in tackles and recovered a Plant City fumble in the end zone for a touchdown while senior safety Ricky Pyron recovered two fumbles, one of which he returned 50 yards for a touchdown.
“It's been the story of our season, honestly,” Roberts said. “Our defense has been forcing turnovers since the preseason classic and even in the game we lost against Newsome when we forced five turnovers. Turning the ball over hasn't been anything we haven't done all season. It's been a statement of our defense.”
After an uneventful first half, turnovers became the storyline of the second half. Plant City forced two Tampa Bay Tech turnovers, an interception that led to a 17-yard rushing touchdown by Raiders quarterback Landon Galloway, and a fumble that was returned by Plant City's Sawyer Dawson for a touchdown, cutting the Titans' lead to 24-21 in the fourth quarter. In the final three minutes, Tech recovered two fumbles, one by Russ in the end zone, to seal the win.
“We're averaging about five turnovers a game,” Russ said. “We have big athletes on defense, like Micah Tucker, Tajee Fullwood, Jalen Woodall, myself, and Ricky Pyron, and we're all trying to make it to college.”
The teams exchanged touchdowns within 15 seconds in the third quarter, when Elijah Spann returned a kick 86 yards for a score following Galloway's rushing touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Russ and Pyron were switched to running back to run out the clock. Pyron scored his second touchdown of the game on a 4-yard run with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter to give Tech a 31-21 lead.
Junior quarterback Deon Cain led Tech offensively with 186 passing yards with a touchdown, and 76 rushing yards, while senior running back Deon Thompson rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Galloway finished with 172 passing yards and a touchdown along with 31 rushing yards and a touchdown. Galloway was sacked three times.
TBT 12 6 6 14 — 38
Plant City 7 0 7 7 — 21
T — Russ fumble recovered in end zone (Chillura kick)
T — Pyron 4 run (Chillura kick)
P — Dawson 20 fumble return (Hoyle kick)
T — Spann 86 kickoff return (pass failed)
P — Galloway 17 run (Hoyle kick)
T — Spann 11 pass from Cain (pass failed)
P — Johnson 10 pass from Galloway (Hoyle kick)
T — Pyron 50 fumble recovery (pass failed)
T — Thompson 5 run (kick blocked)