Andy Warrener, Times Correspondent
TAMPA — Saturday’s Class 2A region semifinal at Skyway Park had all the intrigue of a state semifinal packed into a first-round game with Cambridge Christian, ranked first in 2A, against No. 4 Northside Christian.
The game did not disappoint, as a track meet of a first half gave way to a defensive duel in the second. The Lancers (10-0) made big stops when it counted the most to hold on for a 19-14 win, the first playoff win in program history.
On the opening kickoff Cambridge’s J’kobi Reddick sliced through the middle of the Mustangs for an 87-yard touchdown. The Mustangs answered with a 10-play, 78-yard drive capped by a short TD by Josh Snead.
Both offenses continued to churn out yards and the Mustangs (8-2) weren’t stopped until late in the first half when Derrick Powell picked off his sixth pass of the season with under a minute left in the first half. The Lancers led 19-14 at halftime.
“If you would have told me before the game that it would be 19-14 with all defense in the second half and my offensive coordinator almost firing himself, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Lancers coach Bob Dare said. “Defense won this game for us.”
The Mustangs gained 315 yards and 12 first downs on their three drives in the first half but only mustered 68 yards and five first downs on five drives in the second. The Mustangs took their sixth drive, third of the half, 31 yards on 12 plays and converted three fourth downs. But a sack by Will Singleton set up the fourth fourth-down attempt of the drive and sophomore Richard Gouraige finally got past Notre Dame commit Dillan Gibbons and made the stop for the turnover on downs with 5:15 to play.
With 1:55 left in the game, the Mustangs approached midfield before going for it again on fourth and 10. Singleton broke into the backfield and stopped Griffin Alstott for a turnover on downs and the game clincher.
“I was really hoping to make a play, I was struggling to get past their line but I finally made the play,” Singleton said.
The Lancers continued to remain undefeated and host Admiral Farragut in the region final next Friday.
“A lot of people don’t believe what we have here is real,” Dare said. “But we’re going to make it happen, not just football but the whole thing.”
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