TAMPA – After starting the season 0-2 with back-to-back losses against New Jersey powerhouse Bergen Catholic and Fort Pierce Central, the Tampa Catholic Crusaders are gaining confidence at the right time.
A 25-21 upset win over visiting Clearwater Central Catholic two weeks ago gave TC its first victory on the young season. Then, last week it was all business in a 25-10 win over Class 3A-District 4 rival Berkeley Prep on Homecoming night.
The Crusaders held a practice in the beaming sun on Wednesday on campus as they prepare for a trip to 6A Land O’ Lakes (0-4).
Fourth-year head coach Mike Gregory likes what he’s seen as of late, but knows his group can do better.
“You just continue to do what got there. I think you can’t let up,” Gregory told Prep Sports Scouting. “You can’t look at your schedule and say this isn’t a CCC, a Berkeley Prep, a Jesuit, a Lakeland Christian or whoever else, you can’t look at our upcoming games and do that.
“You have to continue to prepare the way that you prepare for those games.”
Starting left tackle, senior Steven Rix says he believes that his group is only going to get better from here on out. Rix has drawn interest from USF since the season started.
“Each game we’ve learned a lot and fixed a lot of problems that we didn’t focus on before, then noticed they were problems,” Rix said. “Just building on that is really helping us and making us play a lot better and more sound.”
Senior quarterback Austin Sessums reminisced about his 15-yard touchdown pass to Spenser Wong that held up in a 25-21 win over CCC two weeks ago.
“The rush came in. I knew we had to throw a touchdown at that point so I saw him coming down the field,” Sessums said. “I lobbed it up in desperation almost and he came up with it and scored. It was a cool touchdown.”
Sessums says he thinks that TC should be able to win every game here on out.
Junior wide receiver Kijah Kelly transferred to Tampa Catholic after two seasons at Jesuit. Unfortunately for the speedster he tore his left ACL in the summer playing 7-on-7 ball at IMG Academy.
He just began running and jogging a few weeks ago and is starting to getting the bend back in his knee. Kelly says the doctors are taking it slow with him, aiming for a return next spring. However, there is still a small chance he could be back in time for the playoffs.
In talking about his first season at TC and outlook for the team, he had this to say.
“I love it over here. There are plenty of people I look up to, Devan [Barrett], Darius [Corbett] and Bentlee [Sanders],” Kelly said. “I see this team going far. We are still working here and there.”
After this week, the Crusaders will play host to Orlando West Oaks before traveling to St. Petersburg Gibbs and Lakeland Christian in back-to-back weeks. They wrap up the regular season slate on Nov. 4 with a home clash against rival Jesuit.
“I challenge the guys to be perfect,” Gregory said. “That came out of me and the coaching staff not being really happy with the way we played Friday night. We are happy that we won, but not happy with the way we played. There’s a lot to improve on that.”
The sky is the limit for TC. They made it to the 3A state semifinal a year ago with a 10-3 record. Wide receivers Darius Corbett, Austin Leppert and Ahmarean Brown are all playmakers alongside Auburn commit and star running back Devan Barrett. Sessums knows how to command this offense well behind a solid offensive line led by Steven and Cole Rix on the left side.
On defense, sophomore safety Chris Murray is emerging with two interceptions. Junior cornerback Messiah Turner is steady in coverage. Junior linebacker Dorien Gooch and senior defensive lineman Zac Couture are always flying around.
The potential is there in 3A for Tampa Catholic to make another deep run. Talent is on their side once again and with Gregory running the show, they’re one of the most disciplined teams in Hillsborough County.
Backup quarterback Charlie Dean delivers a strike to Cory Leppert deep downfield. Great protection up front by the starting offensive line.
— Jake Perper (@JakePerper) October 5, 2016
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
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