There’s a midseason revival underway at Gorecki-LeBeau Stadium.
After opening the season 0-3, the Catholic Crusaders have won three in a row, springing a dramatic comeback on rival Pensacola High for their first win and knocking off district foe Florida State last week.
“We’re obviously trending in the right direction,” Catholic head coach Greg Seibert said. “Most of that is attributable to the attitude of the kids, probably from the week of preparation we had for Escambia and forward. They really took the bull by the horns and said, ‘This is not the direction we need to go in.’”
That Escambia loss, a crushing 36-32 defeat that saw former Crusader Z’Khari Blocker score the winning touchdown with 11.6 seconds remaining, seems to have resonated throughout the Catholic locker room.
“Then the third game with Escambia, we really proved to ourselves that we can win ball games no matter who is across from us,” Catholic lineman Blake Brazwell said. “That gave us a confidence boost, even though we lost, it really let us know we can play with anybody, no matter the uniform.”
Knocking off Florida State puts the Crusaders in control of their district destiny. This week their attention turns to a rivalry matchup with the West Florida Jaguars (4-2).
The Jaguars are well known for their intimidating defensive front seven, which harassed Gulf Breeze quarterback Tyler Phelps and the Dolphins into their first loss last time out.
“They’re big, they’re fast, they’re athletic. Their scheme is relatively simple which allows them to play very fast, which is what you want to do on defense,” Seibert said. “They present a number of challenges.”
The rivalry between Catholic and West Florida is relatively new.
It first heated up in 2013, when the Crusaders and Jaguars battled for the top spot in District 1-5A. With each team ranked highly in the state polls, a large crowd turned out at Woodham Middle to see Catholic cap regular-season play with a 31-13 win.
The foes met again in the region semifinals, where the Crusaders came out on top yet again with a 26-20 overtime win.
“Ever since then it’s been a big rivalry,” West Florida head coach Harry Lees said.
Though the district implications are no longer there, the rivalry is still heated as most players on both sides clashed throughout their little league football days.
The Jaguars will enter Friday’s matchup with extra rest after a much-needed bye week. Lees said he thinks Catholic will present many of the same challenges as Gulf Breeze, though this time the sides will be more than familiar with each other.
“I’ve coached against Coach Seibert long enough. They know exactly what they’re doing,” Lees said. “It’s going to be a tough game for us, for our defense obviously.”