Winter Park High fell to Mandarin High 41-8 on Nov. 16 at Showalter Field in the regional semifinal.
Another season of Winter Park Wildcat football is in the books.
The Wildcats’ season came to a conclusion on Friday, Nov. 16, with a 41-8 loss to Mandarin High School at Showalter Field in the regional semifinal game.
Mandarin overwhelmed Winter Park early and built a 27-0 lead in the first half. The Wildcats responded with a touchdown and some defensive stops in the latter part of the game, but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback.
It wasn’t the ending Winter Park wanted, but it still was a season of which assistant coach Johnny Miller said the team should be proud. The Wildcats finished with a record of 10-2, losing only one game during the regular season en route to a district championship.
“We really accomplished a lot,” he said. “I think from where we started off to where we got, we got better and better as the season went on. When you get into the playoffs, everybody’s really, really good. (Mandarin) is a very good team. They outplayed us tonight. The kids … give them kudos because they went out fighting. I’m proud of them.”
Winter Park’s seniors led the way for a strong season. On offense, Tyrone Davis grabbed 536 rushing yards with 92 carries, and Peter Hayes-Patrick collected 810 yards with 122 carries.
However, it was a junior who ruled the receiving stats. Marcus Clarke amassed 979 receiving yards on 55 receptions and also led the team in touchdowns with 25.
On defense, senior JJ Valle-Smith led the team with 82 tackles during the season. Behind him was senior Nicholas Jackson with 64 tackles and a team-leading 14 sacks for 98 yards.
Seniors Ben Hughes, Gabe Rivera and Darrius Young all picked up more than 50 tackles during the season.
The Wildcats proved to be dangerous on both offense and defense, with seven of the team’s 10 wins finishing with a lead of at least 30 points.
“You win with your seniors — your seniors as a whole — and I think that the group came around and got better and their leadership got us to where we were at,” Miller said. “It took the seniors to get us here.”
Winter Park faced its share of adversity during the season. The team lost starting quarterback Gino English to injury a few games into the season, but that gave junior Casey Case a chance to lead the team and make some plays. Case racked up 1,164 passing yards through the season, with an average of 116 passing yards per game.
Case said it was hard to see the season end the way it did but pointed out the hard work of his teammates.
“It was the seniors — we had great seniors,” he said. “Whenever I got down, they picked me up and vice versa. We just had great senior leadership. They showed their true colors. … We faced a lot of adversity this year. We had kids (who) couldn’t play until the middle of the year, and we played through a lot this year with injuries and everything. It wasn’t the ending that we wanted, but we fought hard. … I want to thank Jesus for everything that he’s done. I feel we were blessed to a have this good of a season, for sure.”
The hard work for next year starts now, Miller said.
“Hopefully, these kids will learn from what we need to do — they need to get ready to get into the weight room,” Miller said.
“We’ll start getting ready and May is spring football, and we’ll see what happens when the season comes.”