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Titans Sports

Titans Rally Past Patriots, Hold On For 22-21 Victory

Varsity vs Freedom High School on 9/26/2008
Posted Saturday, September 27, 2008 by NICK WILLIAMS

TAMPA - With two seconds remaining in Friday night's game, Freedom lined up for a 31-yard field goal with a chance to upset district-rival Tampa Bay Tech.

The crowd was roaring. The Earth seemed to be rumbling.

The ball flew wide and to the left.

Freedom players fell to their knees. Tech players rushed the field to celebrate their 22-21 victory.

Drenched in Gatorade after the game, Tech coach C.C. Culpepper was happy to walk away with the win.

"This is a big district win," he said. "With Armwood, Hillsborough and Middleton in our district, to get a win is big and to play like this will help us.

"We can't do nothing but build off this. This is a great win for our program and a great team win, period."

Trailing 14-0 at the half, the Patriots (1-2) scored 21 unanswered points to take the lead with 8:56 left in the fourth quarter, but allowed a Tech touchdown and two-point conversion with 4:18 to go.

Freedom marched 50 yards in the final minutes, including a 24-yard pass to Jacari Campbell on fourth and long, before the missed field goal.

Tech started the game-winning drive on its 15-yard line, and 11 plays later was on Freedom's 2-yard line with a less than five minutes to play. Senior quarterback Angel Rodriguez scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run, then kept the ball on the two-point conversion for a one point lead.

"I was saying to myself, 'This is what they put me in here for,'" Rodriguez said about the touchdown and conversion. "They put me in here to win games and come back in situations like this. I put it in my mind that we were going to score - and we did."

Playing without standout fullback Maurice Hagens, who was out with a knee injury, junior running back Jameel Jackson led the Titans (4-0) with 110 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries. Rodriguez finished with 75 yards rushing on 14 carries and completed five passes for 44 yards.

Freedom senior receiver Rodney Lyons, who dropped a potential touchdown pass in the first half, redeemed himself with two scores in the second half. In the third quarter, sophomore quarterback Josh Grady avoided two tackles and found Lyons for a short pass, and Lyons cut to the outside and used some blocking to put his Patriots on the board with a 75-yard touchdown.

Early in the fourth quarter, Grady connected with a wide-open Chase Croy on a 29-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. Then, on third and long, Lyons beat a defender down the sideline for an 88-yard pass from Grady to take the lead.

"I'm a senior this year and everybody is looking up to me," Lyons said. "I can't hang my head low because everyone else will.

"Coach asked me to step up, so I stepped up."

Lyons ended the game with four catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Grady went 6-for-19 for 225 yards and three scores.

"We've got to find a way to start faster," Freedom coach Marquel Blackwell said. "We've been starting too slow as an offense. The proudest thing about the whole thing is that in the second half, we competed. We came back and battled. We just have to start faster."

Tampa Bay Tech 7 7 0 8 - 22
Freedom 0 0 7 14 - 21
T-Jackson 35 run (Piolito kick)

T-Fulton 11 run (Piolito kick)

F-Lyons 75 pass from Grady (Landeta kick)

F-Croy 29 pass from Grady (Landeta kick)

F-Lyons 88 pass from Grady (Landeta kick)

T-Rodriguez 2 run (Rodriguez run)

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