Another huge defensive effort carried the day for St. Cloud, as the Bulldogs moved to 3-0 on the season with a 12-0 shutout win over upstart Tohopekaliga on Friday night.

“It certainly wasn’t pretty and you could make the case we were fortunate to get out of here with a win tonight,” St. Cloud Head Coach Bryan Smart said.  “Our offense just wasn’t clicking tonight, but thankfully our defense came to play.”

The two teams slugged it out to a 0-0 tie through two quarters of play.  While both teams had a chance to score in the half, it was the Tigers who dominated the half.  Late in the first quarter, Toho had a first and goal at the Bulldog 3-yard line.  But following an offensive holding call, Caleb Endicott intercepted Tiger quarterback Tyler Wesley to end the drive.

Late in the second quarter, Wesley hit a deep pass to Sir Giles down to the St. Cloud 5, but the play was negated by an offensive holding penalty.  An ensuing personal foul penalty, followed by a sack pushed the ball all the way back to the 50 – ending that drive.

After picking up just 64 yards on their first four possessions, St. Cloud finally got a big play with 27 seconds left in the half when Koron Perrin broke loose on a 64-yard run to the Tiger 11. A sideline interference penalty moved the ball to the six with 13 seconds left, but two plays later the Tiger defense sniffed out a screen play to Perrin and threw it for a four-yard loss as time expired in the half.

St. Cloud would finally break the scoreless tie midway through the third period when quarterback Garhett King found Patrick Forsyth in the right corner of the end zone on 16-yard touchdown pass to make it 6-0.

The Bulldogs’ 12-play, 55-yard drive was aided by numerous Toho penalties.  After being stuffed for a four-yard loss on a 3rd and six play on the Tiger 45, the Bulldogs were awarded a first down on a taunting penalty.   St. Cloud converted two more third downs via defensive penalties.

Penalties would hurt Toho on two other drives.  With seven minutes remaining in the game, running back Jovan Morrison broke loose on a 70-yard touchdown run only to have the play negated on a holding call that occurred behind the play.   The Tigers overcame the penalty and drove 76 yards down to the St. Cloud 27, only to fumble the ball away.

The Bulldogs would put the game away on its next possession, driving 75-yards on nine plays to make it 12-0 on Ronny Ramos’ 3-yard run.  But that drive was also aided by both a personal foul and a 3rd down pass interference call. 

“It was really a frustrating game for us,” Toho head coach Marc Deas said.  “We certainly had our chances but penalties and mistakes at key times cost us.  The holding penalty may have been a marginal call, but the fact remains we had several chances to score and simply did not finish our drives.”

Deas added that he was extremely proud of his team’s efforts. 

“We never quit and fought for four quarters.  I told our kids the important thing was to learn from these mistakes and understand it was just one district game.  With a little help we are still in the district race,” Deas said.

Smart praised both his team and the Tigers.  “They gave us all we wanted tonight.  Coach Deas does a great job with those kids and their front four and their defensive backs were very physical, well coached and played sound assignment football,” Smart said.  “But I am very proud of our football team as well, especially our defense.  Toho has a lot of playmakers on offense and to record a shutout is a tribute to everyone on the defensive side of the ball.

Although the game was in hand, the Tigers managed to march 62 yards on their final possession to the St. Cloud 8-yard line, only to see the Bulldogs keep them out of the end zone on four consecutive plays to preserve the shutout.

For the game, the Bulldogs defense recorded four tackles-for-loss, two quarterback sacks and forced two turnovers.  It also limited Wesley, who came into the game averaging 220 yards per game through the air, was limited to 60 passing yards on a 9 for 16 night.

The Bulldogs will travel to Celebration (1-2) on Friday for a non-district game.  Tohopekaliga (2-2) will have a bye week before returning to action in a district home game with Melbourne on Sept. 27.