The Lakers ended the Falcons' 23-game win streak with a decisive 35-21 win at Deputy Scott Pine Community Park.
Windermere Prep’s budding rivalry with Saint Stephen’s Episcopal was on display again Friday night — and the result was a milestone victory for the Lakers.
Senior quarterback Kai Patterson threw for two scores and ran for another in Windermere Prep’s first-ever game at Deputy Scott Pine Community Park, while seniors Mason Russell and Khadry Jackson were among several defensive standouts in the Lakers’ 35-21 victory.
Saint Stephen’s, the reigning two-time Sunshine State Athletic Conference champion, had its 23-game win streak snapped after having not lost since the opening week of the 2016 season. One of those victories was a 49-21 decision over Windermere Prep in the SSAC’s 2017 Florida Bowl championship game.
“It was 296 days ago we played them (the Falcons) last and that’s something we’ve had circled for a long time,” Windermere Prep head coach Jacob Doss said. “We love the opportunity to play Saint Stephen’s. Coach (Tod) Creneti is a good friend of mine and I think their staff is one of the best staffs we go against every year. They are so well-coached, and you could see in the first half tonight that it was such a chess match. The defenses were both playing so well, and Saint Stephen’s got us out of our rhythm offensively and we had to rely on the big plays a little bit more.”
The road to the 2018 Florida Bowl may very well continue to run through Windermere Prep (3-0) and Saint Stephen’s (1-1). The Falcons were crowned SSAC champions in each of the last two seasons after finishing runners-up in 2015, while the Lakers defeated Orlando Christian Prep in the 2014 championship final.
“I have so much respect for that team,” Russell said of the Falcons. "They’re such a well-disciplined and well-coached team and it feels great that we got the win tonight. I really feel like we’re going to be playing them [the Falcons] again at some point this season.”
“I have so much respect for that team (Saint Stephen's). They’re such a well-disciplined and well-coached team and it feels great that we got the win tonight."
— Mason Russell, Windermere Prep
For a game filled with long scoring plays – five of the eight touchdowns covered 20 yards or more, including Najji Allen’s 73-yard jet sweep on the first snap from scrimmage – the difference boiled down to a trio of plays near the goal line.
Trailing 7-0 late in the first quarter, Saint Stephen’s tackled Windermere Prep’s punter at the Lakers’ 2-yard line. However, the Falcons were ruled to have fumbled on the next play, with Jackson recovering at the 2.
Saint Stephen’s later took a knee at its own 1-yard line while trying to field a center snap in punt formation. That set up Russell’s 1-yard touchdown dive with 7:36 left in the third quarter and Justin Kirtland’s extra point gave the Lakers a 21-7 lead.
Windermere Prep then had a short field on its next possession, driving 35 yards to the Saint Stephen’s 1 with Patterson’s 21-yard completion to Seth Daniels being the key play. Facing fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Patterson kept the ball and was eventually credited with a touchdown following a second-effort lunge into the end zone.
“You know the old saying that it’s a game of inches,” Doss said. “We practice those little things all the time and I was so proud of our boys because we practice that if it’s a questionable touchdown, all of our hands are up.”
Patterson finished 13-of-25 passing for 262 yards as the Lakers took advantage of vertical seam and sideline routes. Daniels posted five receptions for 121 yards – highlighted by a 72-yard TD catch early in the second quarter that capped a 98-yard drive – and Jackson’s three receptions (for 86 yards) included a 20-yard scoring grab in the end zone with 9:38 remaining.
Saint Stephen’s cut its deficit to 35-21 with 4:07 left on a 31-yard touchdown pass, and the Falcons recovered an ensuing onside kick at the Windermere Prep 33-yard line. But quarterback Xavier Williams was flushed out of the pocket for an 8-yard loss on second down and the Lakers took over following consecutive incomplete passes.
Williams and fellow quarterback Patrick O’Keefe found little space against Windermere Prep’s pressure defense anchored by linebackers Andrew McLean, Matthew Kane, Russell (who had an interception in the second quarter) and Jackson. The Falcons, who had 14 offensive plays result in negative yardage, were also limited by a solid Windermere Prep secondary featuring Ross Fournet and Daniels.
The Lakers kick off their Coastal League-Central Florida Division schedule next week (Sept. 14) at home against CFCA.