TAMPA - Hillsborough High coach Earl Garcia said before the season his defense would have to carry a young offense until mid-season.
They grew up by halftime Friday night.
Led by linebacker/fullback Marc Thomas' four touchdowns, the Terriers defeated rival Jefferson 43-20 in a non-district game on Friday.
'I'm very proud of a young team,' Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said. 'We told them that if we didn't turn the ball over and we didn't commit penalties, we had a chance, but my goodness we only achieved half the bargain. We almost had 200 yards in penalties.'
Hillsborough finished with nine penalties for 100 yards, but that did not overshadow the Terriers (1-0) running game, which amassed 267 yards, led by junior Lindsey Lamar's 97 yards. Thomas finished with finished with 35 yards on eight carries, while senior back Iziah Wyche had 95 yards on 13 carries.
With an offensive line that averages 260 pounds, Garcia felt confident in establishing a power running game.
'We felt we could line up and run some power football at them, but in their defense, that's an emotional roller coaster with C.J Mills and everything. They're going to be fine. They have a good coaching staff and his kids didn't give up, all the way to the end.'
One Terrier in particular, Thomas, is on a roller coaster himself. His father, Earl Thomas, passed away just days before the team's Kickoff Classic against Lakeland. He promised to dedicate the season to his father and to honor him with a prayer every time he scored. After he put Hillsborough on the board with a 3-yard run in the first quarter, he told Garcia to continue to give him the ball.
'When he called that play, I said 'coach, let me run it. I'm going to score.''
Jefferson (0-1) started off with a solid running game, getting two first-downs off consecutive reverses to receiver Darrell Young. Jefferson defensive back D.J. Penny put the Dragons on the scoreboard with a 30-yard interception return in the first quarter. After a bad snap into the end zone resulted in a safety and a 16-7 Hillsborough lead in the second quarter, Jefferson couldn't get anything going on offense.
'It was a comedy of errors,' Jefferson coach Mike Fenton said. 'We started out pretty good. We had a good first drive, then we had a bad snap, the ball was wet it was very sloppy out here. We have a lot of improving to do.'
Late in the third quarter, Jefferson senior quarterback Zack Grossi injured his throwing arm during a scramble out of bounds.
'He's going to be fine,' Fenton said. 'He got the first down and he tried to run the guy over. He probably should have gotten out of bounds.'
Wyche broke for a 54-yard run on Hillsborough's first possession . Lamar rushed for all 97 of his yards in the first half and also caught two passes for 52 yards.
'It was shades of the old Hillsborough after a struggle in 2006,' Garcia said. 'It was a pleasant spin on a wet Friday night. I couldn't be happier for our young football team.'