TAMPA — It was something he practiced all week, but in all the repetitive walk-throughs, Tampa Catholic senior quarterback Kyle Ploucher probably never saw his bootleg right work as well as it did in the clutch.
After Clearwater Central Catholic took an overtime lead on a field goal, the senior said he never had a doubt what play his coaches would call. After two runs to the strong side, the Crusaders’ signal-caller took the snap, rolled to his right with the defense following, then Ploucher stopped and threw across his body to a wide-open Trajan Herr in the left corner of the end zone for a 7-yard, game-ending touchdown in a 13-10 Tampa Catholic win.
“We practiced that play, the bootleg and throw back, all week,” Ploucher said. “No question, that was the play we were going to.”
For first-year coach Mike Gregory, it was something he saw after Tampa Catholic’s (1-1) Week 1 loss to Madison County that resonated in his win over CCC, arguably one of the top teams in Class 3A.
“Even after the Madison County game, we didn’t ever hang our heads,” Gregory said. “We made some mistakes, and I told the guys before game the only way we overcome is to stick together through everything.”
After three-and-outs for both teams to start the game, CCC got a lift from a big play, as Jeff Smith hit CJ Cotman on a 79-yard pass. The Marauders found the end zone three plays later, as fullback Connor Dorris plowed in from 3 yards out.
The Crusaders had chances in the opening half, but cost themselves with a fumble and an interception in the red zone.
Tampa Catholic evened the game late in the third after back-to-back CCC penalties, and Ploucher tossed up a floater that senior Justin Motlow took away from a defender for a 19-yard score.
Ploucher finished the game 13-of-21 for 125 yards with an interception and two touchdowns, with Motlow leading the receivers with four catches for 69 yards.
CCC had 11 penalties for 120 yards in the game and Tampa Catholic looked poised to take advantage late in the fourth. However, the Crusaders pushed a 34-yard field goal back with 20 yards in penalties to a 54-yard attempt that sailed wide right as regulation ended.
In overtime, the Marauders couldn’t find the end zone, settling for a 33-yard field goal before the Crusaders ended the game.
Clearwater C.C. 7 0 0 0 3 — 10
Tampa Catholic 0 0 7 0 6 — 13
C – Dorris 3 run (Ramos kick)
T – Motlow 19 pass from Ploucher (Sarafianos kick)
C – Ramos 33 FG
T – Herr 7 pass from Ploucher