TAMPA — Lemon Bay kept its Class 4A Regional quarterfinal game with Tampa Catholic close for most of the first half, but the Crusaders size and speed took over in the second half en route to a 35-6 victory.

The Mantas defense kept Tampa off of the scoreboard on its first two drives. After driving inside the 20, a sack and a personal foul penalty set the Crusaders back and forced a punt.

Aiden Moore’s goal line interception ended the Crusaders second possession.

But the Crusaders finally got on the scoreboard as Dylan McCain completed a 5 yard TD pass to Antione Hill on fourth down with 4:22 to go in the second quarter. Tampa added a 1-yard sneak by McCain with 12 seconds to go before halftime to make it 14-0 at intermission.

The Crusaders got third quarter touchdown runs of 75 yards by Raphael Ekechi and 13 yards by Hill to extend the margin to 28-0 before Colby McCauley scored the lone Lemon Bay points on a 60 yard burst up the middle.

DJ Taylor returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a Crusader touchdown.

“When we weren’t able to convert our opening drive of the second half it seemed the wind came out of our sails a little bit on defense,” Lemon Bay Coach Don Southwell said. “It’s hard to keep going out there and battling but that’s what these kids do and they did the bast they could.”

Key plays: The Mantas couldn’t pick up a first down, but tried a fake punt on fourth down and John Moore barely overthrew Mason Dowd. The Crusaders then marched 55 yards for McCain’s TD that made it 14-0 at the half.

The Mantas picked up two first downs on their first possession of the second half, but had to punt the ball away. On the first play from scrimmage, Ekechi broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and raced 75 yards up the right sideline for a touchdown to make it 21-0.

Key stats: McCauley had 126 yards on 14 carries and caught three pass for 11 yards. The Crusaders did much of their damage through the air as McCain completed 12 of 19 passes for 164 yards. Tampa Catholic was penalized 15 times for 135 yards while Lemon Bay was flagged 13 times for 102 yards.

What it means: After their three game winning streak to conclude the regular season, Lemon Bay finished thier season at 3-8. Tampa Catholic (6-4) will move on to face Ameican Heritage in next week’s semifinals.

What they said: “We knew it was a challenge and we knew we’d have to play our best,” Southwell said. “At times we played well but we didn’t play a game of our best but I’m proud of these boys. To be where they were and to have this opportunity and not to shrink from it. You saw in the first half these kids were here to play and that’s what we asked them to do. We made too many mistakes and credit to them, they’ve got some good athletes that made some plays.”

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