Say what you will about the first three weeks of the season for the Ocoee Knights.
The Knights stumbled out to an 0-3 start, defined by an inexperienced offense that simply couldn’t string enough plays together to complete drives and was held scoreless through its first 14 quarters.
It was rough — there’s really no getting around that.
You can say what you will about that rough start, though, because as of 11 p.m. on Sept. 19, those first three games simply do not matter anymore.
By defeating the Lake Howell Silver Hawks to celebrate their Homecoming Week, 20-3, the Knights opened district play in Class 7A District 4 with a win, and that 1-0 record in district play is all that matters right now.
The West Orange Times was represented at Ocoee’s big Homecoming win, although I personally wasn’t able to make it — but from following on Twitter, I know how it played out.
Down 3-0 at halftime, surely Knights students and fans were having a feeling of déjà vu.
But, and this is the reason why we play the games, folks, something changed for Ocoee in that second half.
The Knights outscored Lake Howell 20-0 the rest of the way and, going into a bye week, their season suddenly has new life. Some games left on the district slate are looking much more winnable than they did about a week ago.
Now, one strong half doesn’t completely erase the struggles moving the ball of the first three weeks. Ocoee has to shore up mistakes and penalties, drawing back to the before the season even started, when head coach Dale Salapa referenced the thin margin of error his boys would face this fall.
But for right now, if you’re a Knight, enjoy this win.
Embrace that tired football cliche of breaking the schedule down into 10 one-week seasons, because, frankly, that’s exactly how you have to approach it.
East River is on deck. Win that game and — who knows?
Of course, the Knights weren’t alone in notching a breakthrough win this past week. Foundation Academy, a team we were pretty high on coming into the season (note the cover of our football special section before the season began), limped out to an 0-3 start before finding its way this past week against Taylor.
Like Ocoee, the Lions didn’t get off to a fast start, either, and trailed early before winning 29-15.
But, perhaps it is fitting that both teams had to overcome themselves in their first wins of the season. They had to dig deep and simply decide they had worked too hard in the offseason and preseason to continue on without a win to their credit.
Four other teams from our coverage area scored Week Four wins. Windermere Prep threw up a video game-esque 70 points in a 70-44 win over defending Sunshine State Athletic Conference-champion The First Academy-Leesburg. West Orange was dominant in a win over Leesburg, as was Dr. Phillips in a shutout of Colonial. And, Legacy Charter cruised past Merritt Island Christian, 28-0.
But, the real kudos go out to the Knights and the Lions. Because, when programs get off to a rough start, each individual player is confronted each day with the option to give up or mail it in at practice. However, Ocoee and Foundation persevered and, for now at least, optimism has returned to two local campuses.