It was nice to celebrate Senior Night in style, but Saint Stephen’s head coach Tod Creneti made sure to tell his team following Friday’s 49-21 victory over Spring Hill’s Bishop McLaughlin that there is a bigger goal to achieve this season.
Considering the way the Falcons played in their first home Sunshine State Athletic Conference playoff game at the Moore Athletic Complex at Turner Field, they were well aware that this season is about a return to the conference championship game known as the Florida Bowl. By scoring the game’s first 35 points, Saint Stephen’s set up a Coral League semifinal home game for next week and moved another step closer to that ultimate goal.
Junior Demetrius Davis returned the opening kickoff 67 yards to the Bishop McLaughlin 23 and Saint Stephen’s, which claimed its eighth consecutive win and improved to 8-1 on the season, was off and running. On the third play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Fred Billy threw a 10-yard scoring pass to Davis.
“They’re good, but we knew that coming in,” said Bishop McLaughlin head coach Jeff Swymer. “They’re big, they’re physical and they’re athletic. That’s what overwhelmed us. We have some guys that need to eat a little more to match what they do.”
Davis accounted for 199 yards of total offense and three total touchdowns, including a 25-yard run with 3:04 left in the first quarter and a 6-yard run that invoked the running-clock mercy rule midway through the third quarter. Running back Chase Brown finished with 166 yards on the ground with touchdown runs of 25, 4 and 62 yards, while Jordan Murrell scored the first touchdown of the second quarter on a 3-yard run.
With the possibility of the second half starting with a running clock, Bishop McLaughlin (5-4) pulled within 28 at 35-7 with 1:34 left in the second quarter on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Gilbert Estien to Julio Herrera. Estien and Herrera would hook up for a 6-yard score late in the third quarter, and Hurricanes running back Luis Valentin Jr. closed out the scoring in the final minute with a 6-yard run.
Saint Stephen’s will play host to Zephyrhills Christian next Friday. The winner will advance to the Coral League championship game on Nov. 11 and the Coral League champion will meet the Sunshine State Athletic Conference’s Coastal League champion on Nov. 18 in the Florida Bowl.
“I think that our kids felt really good about the scheme and really good about the matchup,” said Creneti, whose team fell to Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic 33-0 in the 2015 Florida Bowl. “They were just ready to play. I believe that they’ve been ready to play since Wednesday. I think they were excited to be in the playoffs and they were ready to go.”
Saint Stephen’s 49, Bishop McLaughlin 21
Bishop McLaughlin Catholic
SS— Demetrius Davis 10 pass from Fred Billy (Alex Virgilio), 10:25
SS— Chase Brown 25 run (Virgilio kick), 7:04
S — Billy 25 run (Virgilio kick), 3:04
SS— Jordan Murrell 3 run (Virgilio kick), 9:13
SS— Brown 4 run (Virgilio kick), 2:45
BMC— Julio Herrera 10 pass from Gilbert Estien (Niko Savolidis kick), 1:34
SS— Billy 6 run (Virgilio kick), 6:31
BMC— Herrera 6 pass from Estien (Savolidis kick), 1:14
SS— Brown 62 run (Dylan Joseph kick), 9:15
BMC— Luis Valentin Jr. 6 run (Savolidis kick), 1:08
Rushing: Bishop McLaughlin 30-179: Estien 14-100, Valentin Jr. 15-76, Herrera 1-3. Saint Stephen's 27-268: Brown 13-166, Billy 9-82, Davis 1-14, Jordan Murrell 3-6, Cam Vining 1-0.
Passing: Bishop McLaughlin 12-19-0-155: Estien 12-19-0-155. Saint Stephen's 9-13-0-117: Billy 9-13-0-117.
Receiving: Bishop McLaughlin: Herrera 7-59, Caden Corrao 2-41, Joe Mastrino 2-40, Valentin Jr. 1-15. Saint Stephen's: Davis 5-72, Peyton Vining 2-25, Jordon Murrell 2-20.
Who: Zephyrhills Christian at Saint Stephen’s
What: SSAC Coral League semifinals
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School, Bradenton