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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022 1 week ago

KNIGHTS ADVANCE: Ocoee High's football team continues pursuit for state championship title

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After a tough battle against the Warriors, Ocoee will face East Lake Friday, Nov. 25.
by: Andrea Mujica Staff Writer

Ocoee High School is West Orange’s lone survivor on a quest for the state championship title.

The Knights have advanced to the final round of the Region 2 playoffs after defeating crosstown rival West Orange, 29-28, Friday, Nov. 18.

“There were a lot of things that we had to fix on our side; they (West Orange) did a great job the first time (we played them), so we had to fix ourselves,” Ocoee head football coach Aaron Sheppard said. “We just worked on ourselves.”

Despite losing to West Orange 41-47 Nov. 1, the Ocoee Knights got their revenge, posing a strong offensive threat from the beginning of the game as they scored their first touchdown at the end of the first quarter. 

The Knights took the lead early after capitalizing on an interception. The Warriors didn’t stay behind and scored their first seven points in the second quarter.

The two local powerhouses battled to a 21-21 tie by the end of regulation. In overtime, West Orange drew first look to take the lead 28-21. However, with only one second left on the clock, the Knights were able to reach the end zone to draw within one.

Then, instead of kicking the extra point, the Knights opted for a two-point conversion try. Ocoee punched it into the end zone to earn a 29-28 statement win.

“It’s tough when you lose; my kids played hard,” West Orange head football coach Geno Thompson said. “They went for two on the final play, and they converted. Good luck to (the Knights) in the post season.”

Sheppard said he is proud of the work ethic and character his team showed throughout the season and, particularly, in this game.

“We just worked hard,” Sheppard said. “I don’t want to take anything away from (West Orange). They did a great job. My kids: They worked hard all week, and they wanted to show who they really were.”

Ocoee will face East Lake (Tarpon Springs) Friday, Nov. 25, during the final round of the Region 2 playoffs. The winner of that game will advance to the Final Four.

East Lake will be a tough test. The Eagles are 11-2 for the season with a perfect 3-0 record in Class 4M, District 6. Their only loss was a 28-20 decision to Lake Gibson way back in August. Since then, East Lake has dominated most opponents, including a 37-20 playoff win over Olympia Nov. 12.

“We just got to do what we got to do,” Sheppard said.

 

THE FIRST ACADEMY

The First Academy’s journey for a state championship came to an end after falling to University Christian 42-13 Friday, Nov. 18.

“That was a very good football team,” TFA head football coach Leroy Kinard said. “In the second half, they made a couple of adjustments and basically ran the ball on us, and we really couldn’t slow them down. I think they just said, ‘Hey, we are bigger and more physical than you, and we are just going to make you stop us.’ We made a couple of mistakes on defense, and we really struggled slowing them down. Offensively we had a couple of scores, but we really couldn’t sustain anything.”

The Royals ended their 2022 season with an overall record of 8-3.

“We had a great group of seniors, and they fought hard, and they gave us a chance in every game this year,” Kinard said. “So, even though sometimes it doesn’t go the way you expected, with the leadership that we had in this senior class — even though we are disappointed in the outcome, we are not disappointed in the way they led and their effort.”

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Andrea Mujica is a staff writer for the West Orange Times & Observer, the Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida....

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