Chandler’s heroics guide Holy Trinity past Indian Rocks Christian
Kevin Chandler scored four touchdowns as the Holy Trinity Tigers defeated Indian Rocks Christian 42-6 in their final game of the regular season. Holy Trinity will likely be the No. 2 seed in the Class 3A, Region 2 playoffs when the pairings are announced on Sunday.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
Kevin Chandler put on a show Friday night as Holy Trinity likely earned some well-deserved rest.
The Tigers clinched a playoff berth and what is expected to be a first-round bye in the Class 3A state football playoffs, continuing a season that has been full of high and lows.
The Tigers trounced Indian Rocks Christian 42-6 after forging a 35-0 advantage less than 1 minute into the second quarter. A running clock was utilized for the entire second half.
Chandler scored four of Holy Trinity’s six touchdowns. Two came on receptions, another on a run and another after an interception.
Last week, Cocoa humbled Holy Trinity 58-0 in a mismatch that prompted some serious thinking for the Tigers, who reside on the outskirts of the Pineda Causeway. A running clock was in effect for the second half of that setback.
“I’m pleased that we recovered psychologically after taking that tough loss to Cocoa,’’ said Holy Trinity coach Nate Hooks Jr. “That was a loss to one of the best teams in the nation. There was nothing to be ashamed of.’’
Cocoa was the Class 4A state runner-up in both 2017 and 2018 after winning the last of its four states title in 2016.
After forcing Indian Rocks Christian to punt without obtaining a first down, Chandler outmuscled a defender to haul in a pass from Ja’Lon Hudgins. He eluded another defender as he cut across the field for a 63-yard touchdown.
James Linnabary kicked the extra point to give Holy Trinity a 7-0 lead with 10 minutes to play in the first quarter.
The Golden Eagles, who fell to 3-6, were unable to compile a first down on their ensuing possession.
Chandler’s 55-yard scoring run on second down increased Holy Trinity’s lead to 14-0 after Linnabary booted the extra point. Chandler used the whole field once again as he ran to the left, cut to the middle and continued to the right for another touchdown with 7:25 remaining in the opening quarter.
“We really just needed to get our mojo back,’’ said Chandler, whose squad improved to 6-4.
“This was the game to go out and do it. After this game, we will have a bye week. We should come back strong.’’
The official FHSAA playoff pairings will be announced Sunday morning.
Holy Trinity came into the week as the No. 2 ranked team in the region, which would give the Tigers a bye in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Assuming that holds, Holy Trinity would be scheduled to host a 7 p.m. second-round playoff game on Nov. 15 in Class 3A, Region 2.
The FHSAA’s RPI playoff system utilizes a computer program which rewards teams for playing bigger schools and teams with winning records.
Lakeland Christian entered the week as the top seed in the region. Four other teams will earn playoff berths in the region and play in the first round.
The winners of those two games will play either Lakeland Christian or Holy Trinity in the second round.
Linnabary’s deep kick to the right corner pinned Indian Rocks Christian at its own 12. Three plays later, Holy Trinity recovered a fumbled handoff and took possession at the Golden Eagles’ 4.
One play later, Chandler caught a pass from Hudgins near his shoestrings on the right side and muscled in for a 4-yard touchdown with 5:07 to play in the first quarter. Linnabary booted the extra point to make it 21-0.
Two running plays were turned back for losses of 2 and 3 yards before Brett Bush threw a 3-yard pass to Austyn Williamson on third down. Indian Rocks Christian chose to punt on fourth down as Holy Trinity took over at the Eagles’ 45 after a 22-yard punt by Athan Avitia.
Larry Hill, who has battled a hamstring injury for most of the season, sprinted to the right sideline for a 45-yard touchdown with 2:11 remaining in the first quarter. Linnabary added the extra point as the margin increased to 28-0.
Hill finished with 77 yards rushing on four carries.
Chandler scored his fourth touchdown of the game as he intercepted a pass by Bush and returned it 23 yards for a score. Linnabary kicked the extra point to give the Tigers a 35-0 lead just nine second into the second quarter.
Chandler finished with seven receptions for 111 yards. Hudgins completed 7 of 13 passes for the 111 yards, all of the completions going to Chandler.
Jadon Gowins ran up the middle and cut to the right for an 11-yard touchdown with 7:40 to play in the fourth quarter. Brooks Taylor kicked the extra point to extend the lead to 42-0.
Indian Rocks Christian avoided a shutout as Abe Pohler broke two tackles on a run to the right and powered in for a 32-yard touchdown on what proved to be the final play from scrimmage. Holy Trinity blocked the extra point.
In a season where the Tigers have had to deal with a rash of injuries, a week off would be a big help.
“Larry (Hill) is getting healthy and, in two weeks, we should have three more starters back from injuries,” Hooks said. “By Nov. 15, we’ll have a totally different team than we have had all year.
“It will be a much better team. I think the guys will be excited.’’