Melbourne Central Catholic had too much offense for Cardinal Mooney on Friday, and the Hustlers will play at home again next week after a 56-34 regional semifinal win.
Aside from offense, the results were mixed for fourth-ranked MCC, which improved to 10-0 with its Class 3A playoff victory.
The Hustlers special teams blocked a field goal attempt, and Lorenzo Hardy picked up the ball and ran 84 yards for a touchdown. But MCC had an attempt of its own blocked just before halftime, gave up an 87-yard kickoff return touchdown to Bryce Williams, and the Cougars recovered an onside kick in the final minutes to keep their hopes alive.
The defense held on a fourth-and-goal, but it gave up 119 yards of rushing to Williams and allowed a touchdown pass by backup quarterback Jack Koscho, who came in after a fourth-quarter injury to Tristan Hillerich.
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Those weapons though. Lavonte Valentine rushed for 178 yards on 15 carries, scoring on runs of 62 and 52. Hardy had rushing touchdowns of his own for 19 and 18 yards.
Joaquin Collazo passed for 197 yards, throwing touchdown passes of 28 yards to Nate Flemming and 31 yards to Bryce Fielding. Collazo also scored on a 1-yard keeper.
For Valentine, the night was more north-and-south than usual. He said Cardinal Mooney’s defensive alignment allowed him to run between the tackles more than he had all season.
“This was probably my best running game,” he said. “They had one linebacker in the middle, so if I got past him, it was a touchdown. The line was blocking really well, and I was actually breaking tackles.”
Zamari Walton said his own team’s alignment on punt-block duty allowed him to get to the Cougars’ first field goal try, which he blocked.
“Jovan Simon blocked a guy that let me get through. I just ran full speed, and the coaches told me to dive,” Walton said. “We were going to double team the guy on the end to let me come around the end.”
Clearwater Central Catholic is up next for MCC, also at home. CCC has been at least a 3A state semifinalist four years in a row, while the Hustlers have never advanced past the regional final round.
Melbourne CC 56, Cardinal Mooney 34
M — Lorenzo Hardy 84 blocked field goal return (Will McKegg kick), 2:42
BN — Bryce Williams 40 run (run failed), 2:00
MCC — Nate Fleming 28 pass from Joaquin Collazo (McKegg kick), 4:31
MCC — Hardy 19 run (McKegg kick), 1:16
MCC — Lavonte Valentine 62 run (McKegg kick), 11:42
CM — Williams 87 kickoff return (Ryan Bletcha kick), 11:28
MCC — Collazo 1 run (McKegg kick), 8:55
CM — Tristan Hillerich 1 run (Bletcha kick), 3:29
MCC — Hardy 18 run (McKegg kick), :47
CM — Meko Mayes 8 pass from Jack Koscho (Bletcha kick), 10:07
CM — Williams 4 run (Bletcha kick), 4:30
MCC — Valentine 52 run (McKegg kick), 4:21
MCC — Bryce Fielding 31 pass from Collazo (McKegg kick), 2:21
Rushing: CM —Williams 17-119, Koscho 9-19, Hillerich 11-17, Blechta 4-8. MCC —Valentine 15-178, Hardy 5-63, Collazo 11-66, Fielding 1-8.
Passing: CM — Hillerich 5-17-0 78, Koscho 3-8-1 57. MCC — Collazo 11-19-2 197.
Receiving: CM — Blechta 3-37, Sam Koscho 1-26, Sean White 2-19, Williams 1-45, Mayes 1-8. MCC — Flemming 3-57, Fielding 3-52, Levi Wilson 3-51, Valentine 1-29, Hardy 1-8.