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Titans Sports

Tampa Bay Tech's Turnaround Complete

Varsity vs Hillsborough HS on 11/7/2008
Posted Saturday, November 08, 2008 by NICK WILLIAMS
Misfits. Uncoachable. Two years ago, those were the words used to describe the Tampa Bay Tech football program.

That was then. This is now.

On Friday, the Titans defeated Hillsborough, 26-20, to clinch its first playoff berth since 2001. The victory improved the Titans to 3-1 in Class 4A-District 11, allowing them to advance to the postseason as district runner-up.

Armwood won the district title with a 48-3 victory over Middleton.

The loss snapped Hillsborough's 10-year streak of making the playoffs.

In his second year as Tech coach, C.C. Culpepper transformed a program that had a 22-game losing streak into one of the area's most successful teams.

"I would be lying to you if I said it wasn't hard," Culpepper said. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done, and I've been through the fire academy and college. We have no district, so these kids could have gone anywhere they wanted. They chose to stay here with me. A misfit coach who left Armwood. They told me this job would run me into the grave."

Instead, it could lead him to Orlando, the site of this year's state championship.

Junior running back Maurice Hagens proved to be too much for Hillsborough, as he led Tech with 101 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.

Standing in a daze as his teammates celebrated on the field, Hagens looked back on summer drills as the reason for this year's 8-1 success.

"We had dedication throughout the summer," he said. "It started in January."
Junior quarterback Angel Rodriguez finished with 110 yards on the ground and completed seven of nine passes for 81 yards. Senior receiver Antonio Wallace caught five passes for 66 yards and had five carries for 31 yards.

"This is big," Rodriguez said. "We talked about this from the beginning."

"That 0-22 team, we didn't care," Wallace said. "We just came out here to have fun. Now we're here. Now we're in the playoffs."

Senior running back Lindsey Lamar led the Terriers (6-4) with 101 yards rushing and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 49 yards. Junior quarterback Tarean Austin completed 11 of 20 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown.

Hillsborough trailed 26-13 in the fourth quarter when Austin connected with senior receiver Colby Walden on a 39-yard touchdown, and the Terriers converted the extra point with 5:35 left to cut Tech's lead to six.

The Titans used Hagens to run time off the clock, but they turned the ball over on downs with 1:27 left. Austin completed three passes to move the ball into Tech territory, but a final heave into the end zone fell incomplete as time expired.

"It's a disappointment for us," Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said. "I feel bad for the seniors. We didn't have an answer for their offense tonight."

Hillsborough 6 7 0 7 - 20
Tampa Bay Tech 13 6 7 0 - 26
H-Lamar 69 run (kick failed).

T-Hagens 11 run (Piloto kick).

T-Floyd 5 run (kick failed).

H-Lamar 3 run (Colborne kick).

T-Hagens 2 run (pass failed).

T-Hagens 4 run (Piloto kick).

H-Walden 39 pass from Austin (Colbrone kick).

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