Tigers tame Atlantic to please Homecoming crowd

Holy Trinity’s 34-14 victory could dramatically increase their playoff chances in Class 3A


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Holy Trinity running back Larry Hill, shown here during last week's game against Coral Springs Charter, ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers defeated Port Orange Atlantic 34-14 Friday night. The win should boost Holy Trinity's chances of making the Class 3A playoffs.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

Holy Trinity’s ability to play 48 consecutive minutes of solid football Friday night might allow the Tigers to play beyond the regular season which concludes next week.

Larry Hill rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries as Holy Trinity defeated Port Orange Atlantic 34-14 to please its Homecoming crowd.

Holy Trinity improved to 4-4 overall. It is battling Pierson Taylor for the sixth and final playoff berth in Class 3A, Region 2. The Tigers travel to Deltona next Friday to play Trinity Christian Academy (6-3).

Atlantic, which competes in Class 4A, Region 3, fell to 5-3 overall.

“I know it’s a cliché, but we played a complete game --- all four quarters --- for the first time this season,’’ Holy Trinity coach Nate Hooks Jr. said. “This was a team ranked higher than us and in a higher classification. They came in 5-2 and only lost to Astronaut 7-0 and they beat Pierson Taylor 48-10.’’

Two pivotal plays by Trey Palmer on defense in the first quarter gave Holy Trinity the momentum to take over the game.

Palmer intercepted Aaron Manning’s first-down pass in the end zone with 4 minutes, 51 seconds to play in the first quarter. The Sharks had taken possession at the Tigers’ 13-yard line after Tyler Berrong intercepted a pass by Dru Nickson in the center of the field and muscled his way to the Holy Trinity 13.

The Tigers failed to record a first down on the ensuing possession, but Palmer recovered a muff by the Sharks on the ensuing punt at the Atlantic 43.

Hill ran for 12 yards on first down and, one play later, the junior running back cut to the right on a run up the middle and eluded several would-be tacklers on a couple of spinning moves to the right for a 31-yard touchdown.

James Linnabary kicked the extra point to give the Tigers a 7-0 advantage with 2:20 to play in the first quarter.

“This was a tough opponent --- they’re much bigger than us,’’ Hooks  said. “Larry did a great job of running the ball. That’s an example of what it will be like running the ball in the playoffs. The hits he will take and the strength of the players. The best thing is we have a shot for the playoffs, and we did it all in front of a Homecoming crowd.’’

Holy Trinity did not allow Atlantic to post a first down on the next possession, with passes by Manning on second down and third down falling incomplete.

Nickson’s 16-yard run on third down moved the ball to the Holy Trinity 42. He followed that with a 24-yard screen pass over the middle to Carlos Estronza.

Hill then ran three consecutive times for 14, 16 and 4 yards, with the final run being a scoring run to the left to cap the seven-play, 74-yard drive which spanned 2:26 to end the first quarter and begin the second quarter.

Linnabary kicked the extra point to extend Holy Trinity’s lead to 14-0 with 10:54 to play in the second quarter.

Atlantic ran the ball well on the next sequence, recording three first downs with a power running game that bypassed the traditional huddle between plays. But a miscalculated screen pass by Manning to Aaron Walton on third down resulted in a 10-yard loss that stalled the drive and forced the Sharks to punt.

Ten plays later, Sullivan Altman powered in from 5 yards out for a touchdown to give the Tigers a commanding 21-0 lead after Linnabary’s PAT. Altman commands the Tigers’ defense from his linebacker spot and rarely plays on offense.

Three passes by Nickson -- a 15-yard pass to James BlackStrain, an 11-yard pass to Tyrell Harris and a 23-yard pass to BlackStrain  -- were the key plays in the 72-yard scoring drive.

Manning completed just 2 of 10 passes for negative 5 yards and two interceptions. Maximum Campbell, a highly recruited junior wide receiver at 6 feet, 4 inches and 185 pounds, caught just two passes for 5 yards.

“Our defense played great,’’ Hooks said. “It was lights out the whole game. We did a great job on that one Division I receiver.’’

Nickson completed 12 of 18 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown.

Walton sprinted up the middle for a 53-yard touchdown, and Zach McNeely kicked the PAT to slice Holy Trinity’s lead to 21-7 with 4:45 to play in the third quarter.

Any thoughts of a comeback by the Sharks were quickly halted as Preston Foreman fielded the ensuing kickoff on the right side, sprinted past several defenders in the middle of the field and cut to the left sideline for a 92-yard kickoff return. Linnabary kicked the PAT to make it 28-7.

Palmer intercepted his second pass of the night from Manning to set up the Tigers’ final touchdown. Eight plays later, Nickson threw a 6-yard jump pass to Estronza to extend the Tigers’ lead to 34-7.

Charles Robinson, who rushed for 84 yards on 20 carries, scored on a 1-yard run with 4:30 remaining in the contest.  McNeely kicked the PAT for the Sharks to make it 34-14.

Holy Trinity entered the week trailing Pierson Taylor by less than a point (33.50 to 33.43) in the FHSAA playoff point system.

Beating an Atlantic team that holds a win over Pierson Taylor – along with the fact that Taylor lost 35-7 to a Class 1A Crescent City team on Friday -- should give the Tigers a big boost when the new point standings are released on Tuesday.