SARASOTA -- The absence of star running back Jaz Mongeon and the defense's tendency to surrender big plays proved to be Cardinal Mooney's downfall Friday night as the Cougars fell 28-17 to the Lakeland Victory Christian Storm.
"I just think we weren't as consistent as should be and we need to continue to get better," Mooney coach Drew Lascari said after the loss.
A week after shutting out St. Petersburg Catholic, the Cougars' defense struggled to make plays. Victory Christian (3-5, 1-1) consistently found ways to covert on third and long, and Jenner completed five passes of more than 20 yards.
"It's just something we are going to need to address as a football team," Lascari said. "(If) we have a chance to get off the field on third down, we need to make it happen."
With Mongeon and fellow playmaker Bryce Williams out for the game, the Cougars' offense struggled to consistently move the ball all night. On their first scoring drive of the game, the Cougars (2-6, 2-0) got a big boost from a Victory Christian penalty that helped lead to a 1-yard touchdown run by Tristan Hillerich.
Cardinal Mooney took 14-7 lead in the second quarter on 5-yard run from Jake Santiago, one play after he intercepted a pass on defense and returned it 15 yards.
"We're looking for other guys to step up and make plays for us," Lacari said. "We're just looking at creative ways to continue to move on."
Cardinal Mooney's lone score the rest of the way came on a Jake LaFemina field goal with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to bring the Cougars within four. The Cardinal Mooney defense couldn't hold on third down though as Victory Christian quarterback Dalton Jenner froze the secondary with a pump fake and hit Semaj James for a 78-yard score.
"I thought our defense played tough," Lascari said. "Obviously, we eliminate some big plays and it's a different football game."
Cardinal Mooney will have to forget about the loss quickly as it prepares for an important matchup against Clearwater Central Catholic next. Both teams enter the game undefeated in district play, setting up a winner-takes-all matchup for the district championship.
"We're going to need everything, every ounce of energy and effort and passion that this football team has," Lascari said. "CCC is a very talented football team, (we're) certainly going to have our work cut out for us."