Holy Trinity looks for silver lining after regional semifinal loss

Holy Trinity quarterback Ty Englehart delivers a throw under pressure during Friday night's Class 2A regional semifinal against Orlando Christian Prep. The Tigers had the best record in program history, but their season ended with a 47-12 loss.

MAITLAND – The Holy Trinity Tigers have talked about how young they are all season.

But it never really showed until Friday night.

Orlando Christian Prep got on top early and rode its high-powered running game to a 47-12 victory over the Tigers in a Class 2A regional semifinal game played at Orangewood Christian in Maitland.

The Tigers, who had the best start and won more games than any other team in Holy Trinity football history, finished the year at 10-2 with a roster made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores.

“That was an old-fashioned butt-whooping,” Holy Trinity coach Nate Hooks Jr. said. “There’s good and bad in everything. There’s a lesson in everything.

“The good in this is we went 10-2 with a JV team. The bad, of course, we lost the regional semifinals 47-12. The good again, the young guys realize we have to do things right as a way of life.”

The first half was played in a steady rain that made the ball slick to throw and catch, which clearly favored the more run-oriented Warriors (9-1) and their Wing-T offense.

But that was just part of the trouble for the fourth-seeded Tigers on Friday night against the top-ranked team in the region.

“The rain kind of messed us up, but it wasn’t really hard,” Holy Trinity senior running back/safety Jadon Gowins said. “It was just … everybody was trying to play a catch-up game instead of coming out and hitting them in the mouth at first. That messed us up bad.”

Orlando Christian Prep dominated up front on both lines, giving Holy Trinity senior quarterback Ty Englehart little time to throw and exposing holes in the Tigers defense that Warriors running backs were able to exploit.

Trailing 6-0 after the first quarter, and 19-0 late in the second, the Tigers were able to grab some momentum when a big kickoff return by Gowins set them up at the OCP 25.

That led to a five-yard touchdown pass from Englehart to freshman Nicky Teeter.

Holy Trinity, which lost junior kicker Jackson Fain to an injury after a roughing-the-punter call in the first quarter, went for the two-point conversion but it failed.

The Tigers then created a big break when Holy Trinity freshman Jaquez Joiner forced a fumble that was recovered by sophomore Dayday Farmer around midfield.

Holy Trinity had a chance to cut into the OCP lead, but the drive ended in an interception. The Warriors, in turn, had an opportunity to score at the end of the half but that was wiped out by a Famer interception.

The turning point in the game may have come early in the third quarter. After forcing a Warriors punt, the Tigers took over at their own 46 and, after three straight incompletions, decided to go for it fourth down.

Englehart threw deep and made the connection for a first down that would have put the Tigers deep in the red zone. However, the ball was fumbled, OCP recovered and returned the ball to the 42.

The Warriors would go in for the score and instead of Holy Trinity cutting the lead to 19-13, it was now 26-6 and the game got away from the Tigers.

“They’re eighth and ninth graders, but they now know, on this level, you’ve got to play fast, aggressive, mean, nasty, violent … all those words,” Hooks said. “You don’t get to the Sweet 16 and it’s nice. This is big boy football. The good again is that we got here.”

The Tigers got there in large part because of the play of those young guys, including their 13 freshmen.

Teeter, who caught three touchdown passes in Holy Trinity’s regional quarterfinal win, finished off the game by catching an Englehart pass, bouncing off two would-be tacklers and going 49 yards for a touchdown.

Both Gowins and Hooks believe Friday’s loss will motivate Holy Trinity’s young crew to take the program farther than it has ever gone.

“One hundred percent,” Gowins said. “I feel like these young guys are going to come back, remember this pain, and go further than I could.”

Holy Trinity has now gone to four straight regional semifinals, but is still looking for its first regional finals appearance.

Hooks said that his freshmen, all highly successful in youth football, are used to winning. So, Friday’s loss isn’t likely to sit well.

“They’re not used to getting beat around like this,” Hooks said. “There’s a lesson in it. You can find the silver lining. The silver lining is this showed you there’s still work to do.

“… Four in a row. I’m saying it will be five. It’s the same team next year. We’ve got to win.”

Friday’s game was the final one in a Holy Trinity uniform for seniors Gowins; Englehart; Thomas Nargi; Jalen Francis; Ryan Mel; Larry Edgecomb; Mick McCarthy; Josh Williams; Campbell McNab and Eliyzha Rivera.

In addition to his team’s record, Hooks pointed out some of the great individual accomplishments of his players, like Englehart who came into Friday’s game having thrown for 1,932 yards with 27 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

Farmer had 41 receptions for 948 yards and his 18 receiving touchdowns ranked second in the state.

Then there is Gowns, who will go down as the only Holy Trinity player to go to four regional semifinals in his career.

“It means a lot,” the senior said. “It means we’re going down the right path. Hopefully, these guys behind me, they can break through that and go farther than I could.”

The senior, who hopes to continue his playing career in college, said he’ll never forget his time at Holy Trinity.

“Every year I’ve been at Holy Trinity, it’s been a family,” Gowins said. “That means a lot to me.

“It’s going to stick with me forever.”