The possibility of an all-West Orange County matchup in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference’s Florida Bowl Nov. 15 drew one step closer to becoming a reality this past week. Both Windermere Prep and CFCA scored wins in the opening round of the independent conference’s playoffs.
Both teams, though, had to get those wins in different ways than they were accustomed to and will hope to build on those wins in their respective league championship games on Friday (also serving as the semifinals of the overall tournament).
Windermere Prep rolls after slow start
The high-powered Lakers, usually up double-digits by the time most fans are settled in their seats, found themselves in unfamiliar territory at the end of a scoreless first quarter, locked in an early dogfight with the visitors from the Community School of Naples.
Two scoring drives in the second quarter — one capped by a one-yard run from Rylan Thomas and the other by a touchdown pass from Parker Davis to Michael Stones — would put Windermere Prep up just 12-0 at the half.
The Lakers, despite being tested early, would find their stride in the second half, though, en route to a 33-6 victory.
“That is, without a doubt, one of the best football teams we’ve played all year long,” Windermere Prep coach Jacob Doss said.
Facing a team that has arguably been the most capable foe the Lakers (8-0) have taken on all season, it was the Windermere Prep defense that shined and gave the team’s offense time to get going and create some separation.
“Everybody talks about our offense for nine, 10 weeks, and all of a sudden, our defense is the heroes today,” Doss said.
The Lakers opened a 19-0 lead early in the third quarter before Community School of Naples (7-2) found the scoreboard.
Windermere Prep, which had to abandon its typical empty-set backfield after the Seahawks demonstrated their more-than-capable pass rush in the first half, went on a scoring drive of its own — highlighted by Isaiah Curry’s big-time touchdown reception — to put the Lakers up 26-6.
With eight minutes to play, CSN was driving and trying to remain in contention, when senior Chris Granjean jumped a route and took an interception back to the house, effectively sealing the deal for Windermere Prep.
The Lakers move on now to the semifinals of the SSAC’s Florida Bowl Series Playoffs, also serving as the Coral League Championship Game, where they will host Seffner ChristianFriday, Nov. 7. Seffner edged Berean Christian Oct. 30, 33-31.
EAGLES SOAR ON THE ROAD
The CFCA Eagles will be prepping for a rematch of their own this week after scoring a big road win. CFCA (8-1) will travel to take on Orlando Christian Prep (9-0) at 7 p.m. Friday in the Coastal League Championship Game.
The opportunity comes after the team from Ocoee endured a late scare from host Mount Dora Bible (7-1), which cut the Eagles’ 11-point lead with just over a minute to play to three but was unable to recover the onside kick.
CFCA escaped its first playoff contest as a member of the SSAC with a 40-37 victory.
“We did find out that our boys grew up — that was the first time any of our kids, and also our assistant coaches, ever had a playoff game,” Eagles coach Michael Bonneville said.
Freshman Gehrig Chambless tossed two touchdowns and ran for two more, as CFCA — which trailed 22-20 at the half — got rolling on offense in the second half.
“The second half, we just opened it up (on offense) a little more,” Bonneville said. “A lot of people think we’re just a running team but … if they want to stop the run, we’ll throw it.”
The trio of Jonathan Howell (8 tackles), Judah Stone (7 tackles) and Daniel Moore (6 tackles) led the Eagles on defense.
CFCA fell to the Warriors, 30-6, early in the season on Sep. 19 — but to look at that score and assume the Eagles will not have a chance against OCP would be a mistake, as Bonneville sees it.
“We know, and OCP knew to a certain extent, that that game was different than the actual outcome,” Bonneville said. “We know it’s going to be a different game (this time).”
The chance to get redemption for their sole loss this season — and advance to the Florida Bowl Championship on Nov. 14 in the process — seems to be all the motivation the Eagles will need to get through practice this week.