Holy Trinity outlasts Coral Springs Charter in happy homecoming


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Holy Trinity's Kevin Chandler (right) ran for a touchdown and caught a TD pass as the Tigers defeated Coral Springs Charter 14-3 Friday night for their first win on their new field.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

Holy Trinity pleased its homecoming crowd and moved closer to a Class 3A football playoff berth with a 14-3 victory Friday night against Coral Springs Charter.

The Tigers (5-3) also won for the first time on their new football field. Before beating Lake Highland Prep 42-0 last week on the road, Holy Trinity had lost three consecutive home games after a robust 3-0 start to begin the season on the road.

“With homecoming, there’s always a little added pressure,’’ Holy Trinity coach Nate Hooks Jr. said. “You don’t want to disappoint the big crowd. That went along with the fact that we hadn’t won a game on our new field. The alumni, the board, the faculty and the staff -- everyone was here. We had to win it for them.’’

Larry Hill, who has been plagued by a hamstring the past few weeks, ran 42 yards to the Coral Springs Charter 1-yard line with 5 minutes, 57 seconds to play in the third quarter.

One play later, Kevin Chandler ran up the middle out of the wildcat formation for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 6-0 advantage with 4:51 to go in the third quarter.

Ja’Lon Hudgins threw a two-point conversion pass to Chandler to make it 8-0.

The 10-play, 76-yard drive whittled 5:10 off the clock.

“Fighting. That’s the one word we talked about all week,’’ Hooks said. “Good things happen when you keep fighting. Coral Springs Charter plays in probably the toughest high school football conference in the country with Booker T. Washington, Cardinal Gibbons and (Gulliver Prep). When you come to play, anything can happen.’’

Late in the third quarter, the Panthers took over at their own 26 after stopping the Tigers 1 yard short of a first down on a 5-yard pass from Hudgins to Demetrius “Meech” Robinson.

Coral Springs Charter eventually moved the ball to the Holy Trinity 11, with a 15-yard pass from Brett Straus to Ethan Wilson being the longest play of the 13-play, 63-yard drive.

Straus’ third-down pass to Wilson on third down from the Holy Trinity 11 fell incomplete in the end zone. 

The Panthers settled for Joseph Leonatti’s 28-yard field goal to cut the margin to 8-3 with 6:40 remaining in the game.

Holy Trinity thought it had a touchdown on the ensuing onside kick, but the ball failed to travel the mandatory 10 yards as Trey Palmer’s 49-yard scoop and run was nullified.

But, seven plays later, Hudgins found Chandler open in the right side of the end zone for a 17-yard scoring strike with 2:40 to play to increase the margin to 14-3. Coral Springs Charter blocked James Linnabary’s extra-point kick.

Holy Trinity’s strong defensive effort stopped Coral Springs Charter at its own 1 on fourth down. The Tigers then took a knee on four consecutive plays to end the game.

Hooks hopes the sportsmanship won’t hurt his team when the victory is compiled in the state’s computer system.

“I don’t completely understand the point differentiation system,’’ Hooks said. “I don’t know if there’s a difference between a 21-3 victory and a 14-3 victory. I did what I thought was the right thing to do tonight. I hope it doesn’t come back to bite us. I hope that I don’t second guess myself at the end of the season.”

If anything, the Tigers’ playoff chances may have only gotten stronger Friday night.

Holy Trinity was projected to receive the No. 2 seed – and a first-round bye – in the first FHSAA RPI rankings released earlier this week. Not only should a win over a Class 4A team like Coral Springs Charter help boost the Tigers’ RPI number, but the team ranked one spot below them (Pierson Taylor), lost 38-0 to Father Lopez.

Friday night’s game was a defensive struggle.

Hudgins completed 9 of 24 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown. Hill rushed for 61 yards on 10 carries. Chandler caught seven passes for 93 yards.

Hudgins’ first eight passes fell incomplete. Several of those passes were dropped.

Two bad snaps led to losses of 21 yards and 19 yards for Holy Trinity, which finished with 140 yards of total offense.

The Tigers’ defense limited the Panthers to 61 yards of total offense. Coral Springs Charter had 19 rushing yards on 33 carries. Straus was sacked six times for a loss of 45 yards.

Straus completed 5 of 12 passes for 42 yards.

After a week off, Holy Trinity will travel to Cocoa for a 7 p.m. game on Oct. 25 against the Tigers. Cocoa has been the Class 4A state runner-up the past two seasons after winning the Class 4A title in 2016. The Tigers also won state titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

“You want to play quality games against quality opponents with this new playoff system (second year in effect),’’ Hooks said. “We’ll get quality percentage points by playing this game. Cocoa is a perennial powerhouse and one of the best teams in the country from year to year. They’ve got three guys in the NFL.’’

Holy Trinity will finish its regular season with a Nov. 1 home game against Indian Rocks Christian.