BlackStrain’s interception halts MCC as Wydner excels in Holy Trinity debut


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Holy Trinity's James BlackStrain, shown here during a recent practice, had a big interception late in Friday night's season opener to preserve a 21-13 victory over MCC. It was Holy Trinity's first road win over the Hustlers.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

Holy Trinity’s James BlackStrain was just happy to be back on the football field Friday night.

After missing all of last season with a knee injury, BlackStrain’s clutch interception with Holy Trinity clinging to a 21-13 lead helped the visiting Tigers hold off Melbourne Central Catholic by that margin in the season opener for both schools.

“That was a big-time play by a big-time player,’’ said Holy Trinity coach Nate Hooks Jr. “As good as our offense is, we won this game on defense.’’

James Linnabary kicked a 37-yard field goal to give Holy Trinity a 21-13 advantage with 44 seconds to play in the third quarter.

MCC’s DeAndre Blake fielded the ensuing kickoff at the Hustlers’ 3-yard line and returned it 42 yards to the MCC 45.

On first down, Blake then scoffed off any fatigue and faked his way past four different defenders for a 28-yard gain up the middle to the Holy Trinity 27.

One play later, BlackStrain intercepted quarterback Mekhi Love’s pass under pressure to the right side at the Tigers’ 14. The pass was wobbly and in BlackStrain’s line of sight.

“I saw the quarterback roll out and I was in a Cover 3 zone in the deep third (of the field),’’ BlackStrain said. “I just saw the ball floating out there. I made a play. Coaches always talk about big-time players making big-time plays in a game.’’

That interception halted MCC’s momentum after the Hustlers had scored on their previous possession.

Davin Wydner ran 10 yards on a quarterback keeper to the Holy Trinity 26 for a first down. Four plays later, Dayday Farmer’s 12-yard run on a fake punt gave Holy Trinity a first down at the Tigers’ 38.

Wydner’s 28-yard pass to Farmer on the left side later moved the ball to the MCC 16.

The drive eventually stalled when Wydner was stopped inches shy of a first down at the MCC 7. The 6-foot-5 junior was ruled down and not given credit for a first down as he reached his long arm forward with the ball with 5 minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

Love ran the ball three consecutive times for gains of 11, 10 and 10 yards for three consecutive first downs. Nick Ramsay broke a tackle for a 14-yard gain to the Holy Trinity 48.

Rico Frazier turned back Blake for a 3-yard loss on first down, Love threw an incomplete pass to the right side with 2 minutes, 2 seconds to play and then he ran 5 yards to the Holy Trinity 46.

On fourth down and 8, Love’s pitch to Blake was fumbled for a 2-yard loss and Holy Trinity took over at the MCC 48 with 1:20 remaining in the game.

Wydner, a transfer student from Savannah, Georgia, took a knee three consecutive times to whittle the remaining time off the clock.

“It was a good first experience for me, especially to beat a rival on the road,’’ said Wydner, who completed 28 of 37 passes for 294 yards. “It was sloppy and we have to improve if we want to get where we want to go. Our linemen were great. We only have 18 kids on the team, so we showed a lot of grit and toughness.’’

After Linnabary’s kickoff went into the end zone for no return on the first play of the game, Holy Trinity did not allow MCC to record a first down as it forced the Hustlers to punt. The snap sailed into the end zone for a safety as Love barely pushed the ball out of the end zone before Holy Trinity was able to reach the football.

Jonathan Bailey intercepted a pass by Love as Holy Trinity took possession at its own 31 with 5:13 to play in the first quarter.

Wydner threw an 8-yard pass to Ja’Lon Hudgins on the right side, Jadon Gowins ran 19 yards up the middle on a draw play and followed that with another run up the middle for 5 yards.

Wydner then found Carlos Estronza open over the middle. The senior, who missed most of last season due to injuries, eluded two-would-be tacklers to score on the 37-yard reception. The conversion kick was blocked as Holy Trinity extended its lead to 8-0 with 3:41 to play in the first quarter.

Estronza finished with 12 receptions for 161 yards.

MCC’s Alvarez Baker caught a screen pass by Love on the left side and sprinted for a 34-yard gain on the ensuing possession to move the ball to the Holy Trinity 31.

MCC whittled Holy Trinity’s lead to 8-7 early in the second quarter as Love found Tevon Brown open on the left side and Brown pitched the ball to Blake as he dashed into the end zone to complete the 30-yard hook and ladder scoring play. Love kicked the PAT.

Linnabary kicked a 31-yard field goal with 2:46 remaining in the second quarter to extend Holy Trinity’s lead to 11-7.

Wydner completed seven consecutive passes for 82 yards as Holy Trinity moved from its own 15 to the MCC 3. It was only appropriate that Wydner complete the flurry with a 3-yard scoring run with 7:48 to play in the third quarter.

Linnabary kicked the extra point to make it 18-7.

“Davin has a commanding presence out there at 6-foot-5,’’ Hooks said. “He’s a big-time player.’’

BlackStrain agrees.

“I love him (Wydner),’’ BlackStrain said. “He brings a lot of everything and the ability to extend plays. But we’ve got to put up more than 21 points.’’

MCC narrowed the margin to 18-13 on the ensuing possession as Blake broke two tackles to score on an 11-yard run with 5:15 remaining in the third quarter. Brown threw a conversion pass to Baker on a fake PAT, but MCC stopped Baker just short of the goal line.

Love’s 48-yard screen pass to Brown was the key play of the drive.

BlackStrain finished with seven receptions for 70 yards. Farmer added four catches for 52 yards.

Holy Trinity will host Merritt Island at 7 p.m. Oct. 2.