Windermere Prep’s football team overcame a slow first half against Orangewood Christian in the SSAC Semifinals Nov. 11 to earn the program’s second trip to the independent conference’s championship.
OCOEE The saying goes that it’s tough to beat a good team twice.
In 2016, it was something the Windermere Prep football team confronted firsthand — after defeating St. Edward’s in the regular season, the Lakers were defeated by that same squad in the in the third round of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference Playoffs.
Then, an opportunity for deja vu in 2017 presented itself when the Lakers hosted the Orangewood Christian Rams — whom they had defeated 47-20 in mid-October — in the SSAC Semifinals this past Saturday at Ocoee Bulldog Field.
But, after a slower than usual start for Windermere Prep — the Lakers had just two scores at halftime, leading 14-8 — the home team turned it up a notch in the second half en route to a 35-18 victory.
With the win, the Lakers (10-0) are going back to the SSAC Florida Bowl for the first time since 2014.
“We were sitting and watching (the Florida Bowl) last year and the year before,” Windermere Prep head coach Jacob Doss said. “Any time you have to play a team twice, it’s really tough — especially going against a team with a legend coach in coach (Bill) Gierke. I thought we started strong, but then we got flat. We made some adjustments and we saw some things at halftime that we liked.”
A number of Lakers got in on the scoring fun — from Rahsaan Lewis to Blake Stillwell to Kai Patterson — but it was the complete game Mason Russell, who scored Windermere Prep’s first touchdown, turn in on offense and defense that had Doss raving afterward.
“He is — quietly — probably the best football player on the field every time we play,” Doss said. “He does so much on offense and defense.”
The Lakers will not prepare to face a St. Stephen’s Episcopal team (10-0) with — statistically, at least — a better offense (48 points per game to Windermere Prep’s 45.8) and defense (the Falcons allow just 6.2 points per game to the Lakers’ 14.9).
The game will take place at The Master’s Academy in Oviedo, as it has each fall. And though Windermere Prep faces its toughest task of the season, Doss says he sees enough shades of the team that won it all in 2014 to feel good about the Lakers’ chances.
“I draw a lot of similarities between this team and the team that won it all (in 2014),” Doss said. “This team, we’re not as big as that team, but this is the fastest group of kids I’ve ever coached.”