A Tampa Jesuit assistant coach shouted as his team went through pregame stretches before its season-opener against Lakewood Ranch. “We play with speed,” he implored, “and we play with violence.
“They haven’t seen anything like us,” he yelled to end Jesuit’s stretching routine.
Less than five minutes into Thursday’s opener, the Tigers handed the ball to Malik Davis for the second time. The running back, who is on pace to become Tampa’s all-time leading rusher this year, took a handoff to the right and darted to the sideline. The Mustang defense couldn’t keep up, and by the time Davis was at the edge of the field he had a straight shot to the end zone. Ranchhad flailed out of position and opened a clean path for Davis to scamper 65 yards, untouched, for the opening touchdown.
“That’s the first varsity football game a lot of them are playing,” Lakewood Ranch head coach Mick Koczersut said. “We don’t have anyone we can practice against that runs that fast, so our angles were pretty bad when he took off a couple of times.”
The Mustangs were overmatched by Davis and Jesuit, the No. 2 team in Class 5A, in their season-opener Thursday in Tampa, and the few opportunities Ranch encountered were quickly thrown away. Lakewood Ranch forced two turnovers on the Tigers’ first three possessions and came away with three total points. Davis did the rest, running for 193 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone to blow out the Mustangs, 39-3, at Alumni Field at Corral Memorial Stadium.
“You’ve got to see it,” Koczersut said. “We don’t have that in practice.”
Davis’ first touchdown run alone was enough to outgain Ranch, which finished with only 36 total yards and turned the ball over three times. Quarterback Justin Curtis provided the bulk of Lakewood Ranch’s offense with 55 yards through the air on 5-of-11 passing, but he also ran for negative-20 yards, lost two fumbles and threw an interception on the final play of the game. Wide receiver Kalebe Johnson was the top overall gainer for the Mustangs (0-1) with one 39-yard reception.
198Rushing yards for Tampa Jesuit running back Malik Davis.
36Total yardage for Lakewood Ranch.
Ranch’s only opportunities came early. Cornerback Mark Davis intercepted Tiger quarterback Daniel Boon on the third play of the game to give Lakewood Ranch possession at the Jesuit 32-yard line. Three plays later, though, the Mustangs gave the ball right back when Curtis mishandled a snap and Tiger safety Rodney Higdon recovered. Two plays later, Malik Davis broke off his 65-yard run to give Jesuit (1-0) the lead for good.
“We did some things in the beginning to give us a chance to keep the momentum on our side,” Koczersut said. “Things just fell apart.”
Ranch went three-and-out on its next possession, but Boon gave the ball back again on the first play of the Tigers’ next drive, fumbling at midfield. Linebacker Dylan Townsen scooped up a bouncing ball to give Lakewood Ranch the ball on the edge of the red zone.
This time the Mustangs drive lasted six plays, but again Ranch settled for less than a touchdown and kicker Travis Freeman chipped in a 33-yard field goal for Lakewood Ranch’s only points of the game.
The Mustangs’ next five drives ended with either a three-and-out or the end of the half. They punted six more times and turned it over once more. Ranch managed only two more first downs the rest of the way to finish with four total.
“There are some things we need to clean up,” Koczersut said. “We need to get guys in the right spots at the right time. We’re still making some mistakes that I don’t understand right now, but hopefully we’ll get better.”
Tampa Jesuit 39, Lakewood Ranch 3
JES — Malik Davis 65 run (Camden Bauman kick), 7:08
LR — Travis Freeman 33 field goal, 2:24
JES — Davis 3 run (Bauman kick), 11:08
JES — Davis 36 run (Bauman kick), 5:56
JES — Matthew Pittman 11 run (run failed), 3:04
JES — Davis 16 run (run failed), 0:43
JES — Bauman 31 field goal, 7:06
JES — Bauman 27 field goal, 4:11
Rushing: Lakewood Ranch: Jay Turner 9-4, Justin Curtis 12-(-20), Thomas Scott 4-(-3); Jesuit: Davis 18-198, Daniel Boon 3-(-4), Travell Harris 2-50, Pittman 8-22, Jackson Masters 1-0, Alpha Jalloh 1-(-3), Ethan Dieck 1-(-1).
Passing: Lakewood Ranch: Justin Curtis 5-11-1, 55; Jesuit: Boon 9-15-1, 59.
Receiving: Lakewood Ranch: Scott 3-14, Turner 1-2, Kalebe Johnson 1-39; Jesuit: Larry Hodges 2-4, Max Campbell 3-16, Harris 2-28, Davis 1-5, Dane Belton 1-6.