Florida State University edges Trinity Catholic

Late field goal lifts Seminoles over Celtics

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Posted September 29, 2023 | By Mark Pinson/Special to the Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

Florida State University High School junior kicker Cole Allbaugh booted a 20-yard field goal with 25 seconds left in the game to give the Seminoles a 31-28 win over Trinity Catholic High School on Friday night.

The winning field goal was set up by a Trinity Catholic fumble, the Celtics’ fifth turnover of the game, which Florida State took advantage of by driving 66 yards to set up the winning score.

The hard-fought victory improved Florida State, one of the top teams in the state in Class 2S, to 4-1 on the season, while the disappointing loss dropped Class 1S Trinity Catholic, which has played a very tough schedule, to 1-4 overall.

“It seems every time we play Florida High it’s determined by three points or less and it came down to that again tonight,” said Celtics coach John Brantley. “We played another excellent team and I get criticized every now and then for playing all these good teams. But it’s only going to improve our football team and at the end of the season it shows. We just need to trust the process and stick together because it’s proven itself over the last four years. Nobody likes to lose, but I like what I saw from this team because I thought we improved in every area. If we quit turning the ball over and stop making silly mistakes, we’re going to be tough.”

Trinity Catholic, which has made a postseason run each of the last four years, took the opening kick and drove 65 yards in seven plays, as quarterback Preston Wright completed four passes, including a 17-yard scoring strike to sophomore running back James Pullings. The extra point by Cooper Badics gave the Celtics a 7-0 lead.

Florida State answered with a four-play, 63-yard march with senior quarterback Jeremy Johnston hitting wide receiver Kelsean Inman for a 55-yard touchdown pass. Allbaugh drilled the point after to tie the score at 7 midway through the first period.

Trinity Catholic, which moved the ball consistently against a good Seminoles defense, reached the Florida State nine on its next possession before a fumble short-circuited the drive.

After forcing a Florida State punt, Trinity Catholic marched 75 yards and found the end zone on a 2-yard run by backup quarterback AJ Cussins, who took over when Wright was shaken up after a late hit. The extra point made it 14-7 with 9:56 left in the second period.

Florida State’s next possession ended with an interception of a Johnston pass by Celtics junior cornerback Jaiden Alverio at the Trinity Catholic 30.

Trinity Catholic was forced to punt, and Florida State went 68 yards in two plays with senior tailback Micahi Danzy breaking loose for a 44-yard touchdown run. The point after tied the score at 14 at the half.

The Trinity Catholic defense stepped up in a big way on Florida State’s first possession of the second half as Johnston’s pass was tipped and junior defensive lineman Gerrick Gordon plucked the ball out of the air and rumbled 20 yards for a touchdown. The point after gave the Celtics a 21-14 lead.

Florida State wasted no time in answering as Johnston connected with Ashton Hampton for a 55-yard scoring pass down the right sideline. The point after tied the score at 21.

After an exchange of punts, Trinity Catholic turned the ball over on an interception by Seminoles cornerback Jessiah McGrew at the Celtics’ 39.

A pass interference penalty against Trinity Catholic moved the ball to the 24 and Johnston found Tyson Howard open over the middle for a 24-yard touchdown pass. Johnston completed 12 of 21 passes for 255 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The extra point gave the Seminoles a 28-21 lead late in the third quarter.

A good return on the kickoff and a facemask penalty against Florida State gave Trinity Catholic excellent field position at its 43.

The Celtics drove 57 yards in11 plays with running back Jamarkus Starkes scoring from two yards out. The point after tied the game at 28 with 10:01 left to play.

Florida State was forced to punt and Trinity Catholic took over at its 42. The Celtics picked up a pair of first downs as Wright hit Davon Jones for a 12-yard gain and a first down at the Seminoles’ 45. Wright completed 19 of 28 passes for 214 yards with one touchdown and a pair of interceptions.

A fumble was recovered by Florida State at its 32-yard line to end the threat with 5:05 remaining to play.

The Seminoles calmly drove down the field with Johnston completing a key pass of 24 yards to Hampton. Jayden Threatts picked up 28 yards on a running play to give Florida State a first down at the Trinity Catholic 11-yard line.

The Celtics defense stiffened and forced a 20-yard field goal which Allbaugh made to give the Seminoles a 31-28 lead with 25 seconds left in the game.

The kickoff went through the end zone and Trinity Catholic took possession at its 20-yard line. The Celtics hopes for a miracle ended when Florida State cornerback Gabriel Miley intercepted Wright’s pass and returned it to the Trinity Catholic 3-yard line with 12.7 seconds remaining.

The Seminoles took a knee to seal the hard-fought victory. Despite committing five turnovers, Trinity Catholic was in the game until the very end.

“I thought our offense moved the ball well against a good Florida High defense, but you can’t turn the ball over that many times and beat a good team,” coach Brantley said. “We were hoping to come away with a win tonight, but I’m encouraged by what I saw and I’m excited for this football team so long as they stay up and keep buying in.”

Trinity Catholic will look to get back on the winning track on Friday when the Celtics take on Calvary Christian in Clearwater.

“We’ll go back to work on Monday and see what we’re made of,” coach Brantley said. “We’ve got some good leaders on this team, so we’ll practice next week and get ready to play a talented Calvary Christian team on the road.”

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