For the second week in a row, Durant’s rushing attack excelled under the Friday night lights. But this Friday’s efforts weren’t enough to beat a red-hot Tampa Bay Tech team.
The Titans and Cougars squared off at Cougar Path and delivered the high-scoring affair many football fans expected. Tech erased a first-quarter deficit and never slowed down en route to a 55-28 win over Durant that, combined with Bloomingdale’s win over Plant City, handed the Titans the 7A-District 9 crown and playoff spot.
Durant made an impression on the first offensive snap of the game, which running back Cameron Myers took 80 yards for a score. Tech followed up with two rushing touchdowns of its own — one from Jaquavious Johnson that tied the game at 7-7 with 9:07 left in the first quarter, one from Treshaun Ward six minutes later that gave Tech its first lead of the night.
Quarterback Carlton Potter led the Cougars downfield through the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second, setting up a David Tabakovic two-yard rushing touchdown with a pass to Jory Cole in the Tech red zone. The 14-14 tie was the last of the game, though, as Tech’s offense gained momentum and its defense adjusted to the Cougars’ style.
After quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw his first touchdown pass of the night to Evan Lewis with 10:36 left in the first half, the Cougars fumbled the ensuing kickoff in their own territory and allowed the Titans to recover inside the 10-yard line. It didn’t take long for Penix and Lewis to hook up for six more points on a five-yard pass, setting the score at 28-14.
The Cougars’ emotions ran high on the field, which led to several 15-yard penalties that stalled Durant drives and aided Tech’s. Though Myers did hit paydirt once again, breaking free for a 71-yard touchdown run with 4:12 left in the half, Myron Scott’s catch-and-run touchdown just over a minute later set the score at 35-21. A lost fumble at midfield agitated the Durant sideline and, if that weren’t enough, Johnson scored again for Tech on a short run with 35 seconds to go.
The second half was relatively quiet compared to the first, but still favored Tech.
The Titans scored their last two touchdowns in the third quarter, with a Tyrese Hall catch at 8:03 and a rushing touchdown at 2:52. They committed to stacking the box against the Durant offense, limiting Myers’s effectiveness, but Tabakovic was able to bowl through defenders and help keep the chains moving for the Cougars throughout the half.
Durant’s last drive of the game was a success, thanks in large part to a personal foul on Tech that put the Cougars in the red zone. Tabakovic took the offense within five yards of the end zone and Myers wrapped things up with a five-yard run with 14 seconds to play.
With Tech’s district title win, Durant's playoff fate will be decided at the end of the season by the FHSAA's new points system.
In other area action, Bloomingdale picked up a 36-29 win over Plant City and Strawberry Crest lost to East Bay, 40-0.