The Warriors rallied from a 21-point deficit to tie the game, but the Raiders got the last word in with the winning touchdown in the game's waning seconds.
West Orange High’s varsity football team scored 56 points during Kickoff Classic and season-opening wins — and that number would have come in handy again Friday night.
The Warriors put 42 points on the home side of the scoreboard in Week 2, but it still wasn’t enough to outlast state-ranked Rockledge. Ladarius Tennison’s two-yard rushing score – which gave the dynamic junior running back five touchdowns on the night – came with 21.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter and proved to be the difference in the Raiders’ 49-42 victory at Raymond Screws Field.
West Orange (1-1) had overcome a 42-21 fourth-quarter deficit by scoring three touchdowns in just under nine minutes.
Senior quarterback Elijah Stimmell passed to Giuliano Baber in the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown and Colton Scharfeld converted his sixth extra-point of the game with 1:53 left in regulation to pull the Warriors even, but Rockledge (2-0) answered.
The Raiders went 80 yards in six plays, as Tennison capped the drive with a short run up the middle.
The Warriors still managed to reach the Rockledge 30-yard line with 6.3 seconds remaining behind three consecutive Stimmell completions to the sideline. However, his final attempt fell incomplete in the end zone as time expired.
“We didn’t quit and that’s the thing I love about our kids – the fight in them,” West Orange coach Bob Head said. “We just didn’t make the plays that we needed to on defense to seal the deal. And then we just had some turnovers in the red zone that were back-breakers. Hopefully we learn from this and get better."
Rockledge, which reached the Class 5A regional semifinals last season after missing the state playoffs the previous four years, entered Friday’s contest ranked No. 7 in this week’s Associated Press Class 5A state poll. The Raiders will likely be a Category 1 team at regular season’s end (win more than 80 percent of their games), meaning West Orange would earn 35 playoff points for the loss.
“I think we played a great team tonight and I just like the way we didn’t quit,” Head said. “Everybody stayed positive on the sideline and were focused, but I just want to win those close ones.”
Tennison, who finished with three rushing touchdowns (27, 6 and 2 yards) and opened the scoring by returning a punt to the end zone at the 10:24 mark of the first quarter, had a 67-yard touchdown catch on the second play of the fourth quarter. Jesus Delgado kicked the point after as Rockledge pulled ahead 42-21 with 11:04 remaining, but West Orange quickly seized back the momentum.
Warriors wide receiver Darrell Harding returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, and West Orange defensive lineman Daniel Harrington stopped Rockledge’s next possession by sacking quarterback Elias Allen on a 3rd-and-16 play. The Warriors then marched 55 yards in 10 plays with Stimmell scoring from 3 yards on a read-option keeper with 5:43 to go.
Rockledge fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Jaden Floyd’s recovery gave West Orange the ball at the Raiders’ 18-yard line. Stimmell’s TD pass to Baber subsequently capped a drive that saw West Orange overcome three penalties.
Allen completed passes of 24 yards to Tennison (on third down) and 38 yards to Adreal Johnson on Rockledge’s game-winning drive. He finished a perfect 13-of-13 passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns, while O.C. Brothers (6 catches, 69 yards) was his top target.
West Orange, which committed two turnovers including an end-zone interception with 32 seconds left in the third quarter, trailed 28-21 halftime. Baber had a 49-yard scoring play and Harding added a 40-yard TD reception from Stimmell as the Warriors built a 14-7 advantage after the first quarter. Harding totaled five catches for 73 yards and three total touchdowns.
West Orange returns to the field next Friday (Sept. 7) against rival Dr. Phillips at Bill Spoone Stadium.