"Oh man this is good," said Bell, the former Florida quarterback who started the Trinity program from scratch. "What a great way to finish up the regular season with a win over a team like this. They made us earn it. I expect we're going to see them down the road again in the playoffs."
The game was billed as Union County's C.J. Spiller, the US Army All-American tailback, against John Brantley, Trinity's standout junior quarterback and while both of them did nothing to disappoint a packed stadium that included numerous college coaches from Florida State, Tennessee and Southern Cal, it was LeCorn's game to steal the show. The 5-11, 208-pound LeCorn showed great hands, burning speed and a Reggie Bush-kind of elusiveness. He was the trump card for which Union County had no answer.
Dion LeCorn had touchdown catches of 51 and 57 yards in the first half. In the third quarter he took a lateral from Brantley and then threw a perfect strike to Patrick Nelson (UF wide receiver David's little brother) for a 58-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal. In the fourth quarter, with Trinity backed up in the shadow of its own goal posts and needing a big play, LeCorn stretched out to make a diving, one-handed catch of a Brantley pass for 21 yards and breathing room for the Celtics.
"I practice catching the ball with one hand a lot," said LeCorn. "I just kept my focus and went after the ball, just like I'm taught to do."
His teacher is Ricky Nattiel, the former Gator wide receiver and NFL first round pick with the Denver Broncos. Nattiel and Bell were quite the pass-catch tandem in the 1980s when they starred for Florida. Now the two ex-Gators coach a pitch and catch duo that seems relatively unstoppable at this level.
"The sky's really the limit for Dion," said Nattiel. "What you saw out here tonight is what he's been doing all year and what no one really knows is he's been playing all year hurt. He's only about 80, maybe 85 percent. When he's healthy and 100 percent he's really going to be special."
LeCorn said his play on the field is simply a reflection of the coaching he's gotten at Trinity Catholic.
"I just want to thank Coach Bell and Coach Nattiel and all our coaches," he said. "I just go out and play the way they coach me. That's why our team's doing so well. We all just play like we're coached to play."
Brantley finished the night with nine completions in 14 attempts for 196 yards and two scores. He also had a 16-yard pass reception from LeCorn on a double reverse.
Spiller did his part for Union County. Though he was the focus of a Trinity defense that came into the game having allowed only six points in nine previous games, he ground out 53 yards on 15 carries for three touchdowns and he caught four passes for 64 yards.
Trinity's entire defensive game plan was to take its chances with everyone else but make certain Spiller didn't beat them. For most of the night, the Celtics kept Spiller bottled up with a mixture of run blitzes that left the Union County sprinter with no where to go with the ball.
"It just wasn't our night," said Spiller, who praised Trinity for its hard fought win. "Tonight they did the things they needed to do and they played hard so give them a lot of credit. They're a really good team.
"We just have to regroup and play hard in the playoffs. We lost tonight, but I think we're still confident that we've got a really good team. We're in the playoffs so we still can achieve our goal of winning the state championship."
Spiller got a lot of help on this night from teammate Kevin Alexander, a 6-4, 220-pound do-it-all senior. Alexander played linebacker, defensive end, wingback, tight end, wide receiver and fullback in the game. He had a 35-yard run from the fullback position when Union County mounted a scoring threat in the fourth quarter that came up empty when a 43-yard field goal attempt sailed wide to the left.
Defensively, Alexander sacked Brantley three times and forced a fumble. The younger brother of former Gator defensive back Bennie Alexander, Kevin showed why his recruiting stock is rising. He got an offer from Tennessee earlier in the week and Auburn is reportedly hot after him.
The night, however, was LeCorn's to remember. On the first touchdown he made a couple of moves and got open down the left sideline to make it look easy on the 51-yard scoring play. The second scoring play covered 57 yards, but 40 of those yards were the result of LeCorn showing the magic feet and bandstand moves. He caught the pass on the right sideline, juked three defenders and made an outstanding cut to elude a fourth before taking it to the house.
"What you see with him is a wide receiver's hands and concentration to go with a tailback's moves," said Nattiel. "Take a look at him. He looks like a tailback and he's built like a tailback but he's got that ability to create space on pass routes and then once he catches the ball, he runs away from people like a tailback."
GAME NOTES: Former Gator offensive line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens was at the game along with a couple other Tennessee coaches. Tennessee continues to recruit Spiller even though the Vols are a signing day longshot. Earlier in the week the Vols offered Kevin Alexander of Union County, whom most experts expect to grow into a defensive end at the next level … Florida State had numerous coaches and its team chaplain at the game. Among the coaches attending were Kevin Steele, Jody Allen and Odell Hagins … Former Gator wide receiver Reidel Anthony was in attendance. Anthony is an assistant coach at defending Division II national champion Valdosta State … For the season, Trinity Catholic has outscored opponents 516-27.