Football: DP, Ocoee ready for action after preseason clash
| 2:40 p.m. August 28, 2014
By Chris Mayer
The preseason is over and – judging by their performance during last week’s Kickoff Classic victory – the Dr. Phillips Panthers appear more than ready to play a real game.
That is set to happen this Friday, Aug. 29, when DP hosts running back Jacques Patrick and the Timber Creek Wolves in the 2014 season opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Bill Spoone Stadium, as the Panthers embark on what they hope is the program’s fifth undefeated regular season in six years.
Dr. Phillips posted a 35-0 victory over Timber Creek in the 2013 regular-season opener behind 480 yards of total offense. The Panthers eventually reached the FHSAA regional semifinals for the sixth consecutive season where they finished 11-1 after an overtime loss to Tampa Plant.
Patrick reportedly has more than 50 FBS scholarship offers and received invitations to both the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl and 2015 Under Armour All-American Game. The 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pounder recorded a pair of first-quarter touchdowns last Friday in Timber Creek’s 29-22 Kickoff Classic win over New Smyrna Beach.
“We did a decent job on [Patrick] last year, but he is probably the most impressive high school football player that I’ve seen in a long time,” Dr. Phillips head coach Rodney Wells said last Friday, moments after watching the host Panthers earn a 37-7 Kickoff Classic win over Ocoee. “I’ve never seen anybody that big and that strong that can run that fast and be that shifty. So anytime you’re playing a guy like that he can take over. We just have to corral him, and everybody has to get around the ball.”
Former Dr. Phillips head coach Dale Salapa enters his third season at the helm with Ocoee. The Knights come off a 3-7 season that included a 27-0 win over Colonial in Week 1, and they open the 2014 regular season against the host Grenadiers at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 29.
Ocoee once again faces three Class 8A schools to start the year (Colonial, University and Winter Park) in advance of its Class 7A District 4 opener against visiting Lake Howell on Sept. 19. Friday’s Kickoff Classic subsequently presented Salapa and his coaching staff several teaching opportunities while the Knights lined up against the No. 3 team in the Associated Press Class 8A preseason poll.
“We as coaches knew who we were playing and we knew the kind of guys that they [the Panthers] had coming in this year with the speed and everything else,” Salapa said. “Right now we can’t simulate that and their defense over there is relentless, but there were a lot of positives for us tonight. Some of those mindset things are still something we’re working on, but we have a very receptive group right now and so we’ve just got to keep moving forward. We had three starters back, and we don’t play Lake Howell until Week 4 and that’s our first district game. That’s really our target and everything we do between now and then is about improving and getting better.”
Rudy Norwood enters his senior season at DP having passed for 2,052 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. Dr. Phillips graduated its leading receiver in Roderick Proctor (Memphis) and top two rushers in Kerry Bernard (Gardner-Webb) and Deionte Gaines (Colorado State) from a year ago, but the Panthers have all the makings of a dominant offensive line to go along with an array of talented skill position players.
“You always look for a pass-run balance,” Wells said. “We start off with the run and we run the ball to open up some lanes to throw the ball. We have three or four explosive [running] backs and that’s going to be our game and then Rudy will pick his spots when he can.
“We’ve got some guys that are showing promise. We might not have a guy like Proctor or a guy like Gaines, but I think we have a little more depth than we had last year. We’ve got a couple backups that can play, and so I think that’s going to help Rudy out. We’re struggling a little bit with our timing, but we’ll get that down as the season goes on.”
Former Olympia Titan Mike Macon had a pair of touchdown receptions as DP built a 34-0 halftime lead against Ocoee.
Norwood lofted a touch pass to the back corner of the end zone on DP’s second possession where Macon secured a 14-yard TD catch with 8:11 left in the opening quarter. Jeremiah Harris partially blocked a punt to set up the Panthers at the Ocoee 32-yard line.
Macon added a 60-yard touchdown catch with 6:40 remaining before halftime for a 26-0 lead. The Panthers suffered a 26-yard loss during the previous play, but Emare Hogan took a handoff around the left side on third down and spotted Macon alone down the field.
DP recovered an onside kick to start the game, and three plays later Norwood ran 39 yards for a score off a zone-read keeper. Freshman Sterling Stockwell kicked the point after for a 7-0 lead.
“I’m very happy with how physical and how fast we came out tonight,” Wells said. “We talked about coming out of the blocks because last year we had a problem starting games. We had to get warmed up last year, every game was tight at halftime and then we took off from there. I’m telling these guys this year that we have to start better and we have to finish the same way that we start.”
Daquan Isom made it 20-0 with 4:42 left in the first quarter, scoring on a 35-yard run. Newcomer Jaquarius Bargnare also had a 53-yard touchdown run at the 3:25 mark of the second quarter with sophomore quarterback Marvin Washington directing the DP offense.
Elad Galili’s 37-yard field goal came with 3:30 left in the third (and final) varsity quarter and capped the Dr. Phillips scoring.
Defensively, the Panthers were credited with four sacks (Gio Clavier, Jake Barnett, Jalean Perkins and Nick Smith). Senior safety Vernon Walker also intercepted a pass early in the first quarter and returned it to the Ocoee 19-yard line.
Ocoee reached the scoreboard as time ran down in the third quarter when David Flowers hit Jarquavious Graham over the middle for a 77-yard touchdown. The Knights also registered a pair of first-half takeaways – an Antonio Vargas fumble recovery at the Ocoee 8-yard line and a Dorian Jones interception.
“We’re healthy, and we’re going to have a very good film session on Monday [Aug. 25] and we’re going to put a lot of things to rest,” Salapa said. “There’s still a trust factor here where kids still look at you sometimes and they know what you’re saying, but they’re not sure if they really trust you or not. But I think we’re winning that battle.”