The Tigers trounce Tampa Catholic and secure home-field advantage for the state playoffs.
By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2001
TAMPA -- As strange as this is going to sound, Friday night's game between undefeated Jesuit and Tampa Catholic, which came to Corral Memorial Stadium with two wins, was a must-win situation for the Tigers.
And not just because students prematurely painted "10-0" on a car the pep club drove onto the track before the game.
With a win against its longtime rival, Jesuit could earn home-field advantage for virtually all of the state playoffs and ring up its first undefeated season since 1975. And that's exactly what it did.
The Tigers scored 35 points in the first half before reeling off a 49-7 victory and breaking out the T-shirts commemorating the perfect season during a rousing locker room celebration.
"This is a great victory for the whole team," running back Aaron Fryer said. "This is what we've wanted since the beginning of the season."
Tampa Catholic played without starting tailback Joey Pupello, linebacker/offensive lineman James Hanley and defensive lineman Trey Trumbach as all three were suspended by principal Brother David McMahon for talking during a Thursday church service at the school. Pupello's brother Kyle, the team's starting fullback, also sat out the game as a show of support for his teammates.
It is unclear whether the suspension will carry over into next week's regional quarterfinal as McMahon said it was against the law for him to comment about matters involving a student.
The Tigers took full advantage of the weakened TC squad, scoring every time they touched the ball except for a first-quarter fumble by A.J. Schneider.
Jesuit faced only one third down, converting when Shane Robinson scored from 33 yards out, and threw only one pass, a 61-yarder from Anthony Severino to Corey Anderson in the third quarter.
"This was the biggest game of the year for us," Jesuit coach Dominick Ciao said. "It was a must-win situation because of the playoffs. A great team win."