Prep spring football | Cougars, Patriots fit to be tied in spring game

LUTZ -- It had all the intensity, emotion and gamesmanship of a regular-season game.

All that was missing Thursday night from the Oscar Cooler Sports Complex was closure.

Cardinal Mooney and Tampa Carrollwood Day School wrapped their springs by playing to a 41-41 tie that ended when Carrollwood quarterback Dominic Sicardo was hit as he attempted to heave what would have been a 39-yard pass into the end zone.

There was no discussion after Sicardo went down. Instead, both sides lined up for the postgame handshake, putting a cap on a wild night that included loads of offense, just three punts and a number of impressive performances.

Cougars running back Anthony Caiazzo, who had a breakout year last fall when he crossed the 350-yard rushing plateau in consecutive games, proved to be just as elusive Thursday. He ran for two touch

downs, caught another and finished with 168 total yards of offense.

Reese Vita, a rising sophomore at Mooney who is taking over at quarterback after Sean McAdams graduated, threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to Eric Kreger and kept rolling from there. Vita threw two more touchdown passes -- one to Caiazzo and another to Ryan Branch - and scampered for a 6-yard touchdown run to give Mooney a 39-35 lead with 10:27 remaining.

On the next snap, Vita and Branch connected for a two-point conversion that gave the Cougars a 41-35 lead.

But on this night, no lead was safe.

The Patriots were led by the versatile Andy Embody, who spent most of the night in Mooney's end zone. He returned an interception 66 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, threw for a touchdown in the second quarter and two receiving touchdowns after halftime.

His second touchdown catch, a 24-yard grab in the back corner of the end zone, squared the game at 41 with four minutes left. But Carrollwood missed the extra point, and neither team scored again.

Branch a big night for the Cougars, nabbing a pair of interceptions, scoring a touchdown and taking in the aforementioned two-point conversion.

The Cougars reached a Class 3A-District 6 tiebreaker last season but couldn't lock up the district's runner-up and the playoff berth that comes with it.

They head to Bradenton Christian on Aug. 24 for a Kickoff Classic and open the regular season the following week with a trip to LaBelle. Mooney opens district play Oct. 5 at Lakeland Christian, site of last year's district tiebreaker.