MELBOURNE — In a cross-country matchup between playoff contenders, Holy Trinity placekicker Carlo Campanini booted a 22-yard field goal with 1:22 remaining to cap a dramatic comeback for the Tigers, who defeated a defending state champion from California, St. Bernard’s of Eureka, 31-28 in a rain-drenched season opener Friday night at The Jungle.
Campanini’s kick climaxed a heart-pounding second half in which Holy Trinity rebounded from a 28-6 deficit against the Crusaders, who had a 13-game winning streak.
St. Bernard’s quarterback, Jack Rice, threw for 244 yards and four touchdowns in the first half in what appeared to be the makings of a rout during a deluge that began at kickoff and didn’t let up until midway through the third quarter. His favorite target was Micha Fontenot-Cornely, who hauled in there scoring receptions in the first six minutes.
“We didn’t make any adjustments as far as defense,” said Tiger head coach Nate Hooks. “We told them, man-on-man, play like an athlete, and we shut them down in the second half.”
While the defense began to solve the Crusader’s wide open passing attack, the Tigers’ offense got untracked thanks to the legs and arm of running back Jashaun Corbin.
Last year’s leading rusher on the Space Coast with 1,865 yards, Corbin rushed for 119 yards, including a 25-yard scoring run, and threw a perfectly executed halfback option TD toss of 25 yards to Tay Griffin to tie the game 28-28 in the third quarter.
“We knew they would be coming up and we had to take a chance; we had to roll the dice,” said Hooks.
Trailing 28-7, Holy Trinity’s comeback bid began with four minutes remaining in the first half when LaAnthony Valentine scored on a 75-yard kickoff return, which was followed minutes later by Griffin’s recovery of a blocked punt in the end zone for a score.
The comeback spoiled an incredible start for Rice, a converted wide receiver, who has thrown for 4,316 yards and 51 touchdowns and rushed for 2,029 yards and 22 scores. In 2015, he led the Crusaders to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division V-A State Championship.
However, on this night, it was the Tigers who celebrated like champions.
“This is great, you can’t be 10-0 without being 1-0,” said an elated Hooks.
After delaying the school year until their return from the Sunshine State, St. Bernard’s has a much shorter trip next week, traveling to play Casa Grande in Petaluma, CA while the Tigers host Jacksonville Harvest Community Friday at 7 p.m.
St. Bernard’s 28, Holy Trinity 21
St. Bernard’s 20 8 0 0 — 28
Holy Trinity 7 14 7 3 — 31
HOW THEY SCORED
S – Micha Fontenot-Cornely 79 pass from Jack Rice (kick blocked) 11:37.
S – Micha Fontenot-Cornely 21 pass from Rice (pass failed) 11:05.
HT – Jashaun Corbin 25 run (Carlo Campanini kick) 8:31.
S – Micha Fontenot-Cornely 30 pass from Rice (Bryce Gratz pass from Rice) 6:20.
S – Gratz 11 pass from Rice (Gratz pass from Rice) 4:31.
HT – LaAntony Valentine 75 kickoff return (Campanini kick) 4:12.
HT – Tay Griffin recovered blocked in end zone (Campanini kick) 2:23.
HT – Griffin 25 pass from Corbin (Campanini kick) 3:22.
HT – Carlo Campanini 22 FG 1:22.
Rushing: SB — Jack Rice 11-113. HT — Jashaun Corbin 17-119, LaAnthony Valentine 2-22, Joc Bell 4-15.
Passing: SB — Rice 11-33-1, 244 yards. HT — Jordan Wojciechowski 1-4-0, 25 yards, Corbin 1-2-0, 25 yards.
Receiving: SB — Micha Fontenot-Cornely 5-160, Raequan Washington 2-18, Isaac Drake 2-51. HT — Joc Perry 1-25, Tay Griffin 1-25.
Top performers: St. Bernard’s: Jack Rice threw four TD passes, including three to Micha Fontenot-Cornely, for 79, 21 and 30 yards; Holy Trinity: Jashaun Corbin ran for a touchdown and threw for one; LaAnthony Valentine had a 75-yard kickoff return for a TD.
Key play: Carlo Campanini booted a 22-yard field goal with 1:31 remaining in the game to break a 28-28 tie and boost Holy Trinity to victory. Holy Trinity had trailed 20-7 after the first quarter.
Record: St. Bernard’s (0-1); Holy Trinity 1-0)
Next week: Harvest Community at Holy Trinity, 7 p.m.
John Janokaitis, for FLORIDA TODAY