SARASOTA — It is not often the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High football plays two home playoff games in one season.
Thanks to an upset in the regional semifinal, the Cougars will be on their own turf Friday for the Class 1 Suburban-Region 3 final.
Fourth-seeded Victory Christian defeated top-seed Zephyrhills Christian, 29-26, to earn the right to visit Cardinal Mooney, which dispatched Lakeland Christian, 54-14.
Moving to the regional finals:Regional semifinal football roundup: Riverview, Booker, Venice, Cardinal Mooney reach final
The Cougars will be home to play Victory Christian out of Lakeland 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Class 1S-Region 3 final at John Heath Field at Austin Smithers Stadium.
That is coming on the heels of Cardinal Mooney’s 54-14 rout of Lakeland Christian on Friday at home.
The most recent time Cardinal Mooney has been home for two playoff games was 2006. An undefeated Cougars team ran its record to 12-0 by defeating The Villages Charter, 33-0, and Clearwater Central Catholic, 19-10, to advance to the state semifinals.
A Cardinal Mooney team led by quarterback Vinny Corona and two-way players running back/linebacker Hunter Ovens and wide receiver/defensive back Chris Muldoon also was home for the state semis but lost to eventual state champion Pahokee, 48-0.
Complete game against Lakeland Christian
The Cougars are coming off one of their most complete games of the season against Lakeland Christian.
Tied at 14-all at halftime, Cardinal Mooney scored 40 points in the second half and kept the Vikings off the scoreboard for the final 34 minutes, 54 seconds of the contest and the offense off the board for the final 37:09.
Running back Carson Beach rushed for 156 yards and scored three touchdowns. Four different receivers – Zy’Marion Lang, Bo O’Daniel, Josh Henderson and Mason Jordan – caught scoring passes from quarterbacks Devin Mignery and Michael Valentino.
Mignery and Valentino also combined for 110 rushing yards, as the Cougars tallied 299 yards on the ground.
Along with limiting Lakeland Christian to 43 yards rushing and 113 yards overall, Duke Bergstrom returned an interception 41 yards for the final score of the game to start a running clock because of the 35-point mercy rule.
Friday’s win was Cardinal Mooney’s first in the playoffs since opting in during the 2020 COVID-19 season when teams had the option of passing or playing in the playoffs. The Cougars defeated Clearwater Central Catholic, 31-24, before losing to Lakeland Christian, 52-0, in the Class 3A-Region 3 semifinals. It was Cardinal Mooney’s second shutout loss to the Vikings that season, having lost 33-0 in the regular season.
History with Victory Christian
The Cougars have a brief history with Victory Christian. The teams have played six times with the Storm winning four, including the two most recent meetings in 2019 and 2020.
“We’ll get our guys ready,” Cardinal Mooney coach Jared Clark said. “We used to play Victory. My first year we played Victory and we got smacked. We’ll prepare our butts off.”
Friday, the Storm (6-5) came back from 14-7 down at halftime. They feature a balanced attack with senior Jackson Benton at quarterback, throwing to Kooper Jones and DJ Sanders and a running attack that uses four different backs.
Zephyrhills Christian, Lakeland Christian and Victory Christian all finished tied with 1-1 records in 1S-District 5, so the tiebreaker came down to Florida High School Athletic Association power points: Zephyrhills Christian (7.905), Lakeland Christian (7.494) and Victory Christian (0.914). Cardinal Mooney’s rating was 6.328.
The winner of Friday’s contest advances to the state semifinal Dec. 1 against the winner of the 1S-Region 4 final between No. 1 First Baptist Academy of Naples and No. 3 Moore Haven.
First appeared on www.heraldtribune.com