West Orange football set to host state playoff game

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  • | 10:14 a.m. November 13, 2014
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WINTER GARDEN — No one on this year’s West Orange football team who was on the roster a season ago has forgotten the feeling.

The Warriors, making their first playoff appearance since 1999, went on the road in the FHSAA Class 8A Regional Quarterfinals to take on the Winter Park Wildcats.

The joy and elation of being in the playoffs came to an end with a thud, when the Wildcats scored with 14.2 seconds remaining to win the game, 38-35. The heartbreaking loss was compounded by the extent to which West Orange shot itself in the foot, repeatedly, in the second half.

So, when the Warriors take their home field at 7:30 p.m. on Friday against the Timber Creek Wolves (7-3) for just the second home playoff game in program history, expect that there will be a different demeanor to the boys in blue and orange, because last year’s misstep has certainly not been forgotten.

“We’re preparing to win — we’re not excited just to be there anymore,” coach Bob Head said. “That (being in the playoffs) was pretty exciting last year, but this year, that excitement is really gone. We need to win.”

West Orange completed its first undefeated regular season Nov. 7 with a 50-18 win over rival Ocoee, but this season has always been about more than regular-season wins. The Warriors got one proverbial monkey off their backs when they defeated Apopka for the first time in more than 15 years on Oct. 3. Now, West Orange has another in its sights — earning the program’s first ever playoff win.

West Orange is 0-5 all-time in the state playoffs.

“We’re not taking any team lightly. … We’re not going to relax,” junior receiver Eddie McDoom said, explaining the difference in the team’s approach this year. “We know we’re the better team. We just need to go out there and prove it.”

The hope for this year’s team is that, with last year’s playoff game under their belts and a win in a playoff-esque atmosphere earlier this season against Apopka to their credit, the nerves the young men feel on Friday night will be manageable.

“Now we can say we’ve been there before,” senior defensive end Brandon Wilson said. “We’re just used to it now; we know what we’ve got to do,”

Standing in the Warriors’ way from that first playoff win, though, is the No. 3 running back in the nation. Jacques Patrick, who just recently ended his high-profile recruitment by committing to Florida State University, has rushed for 2,140 yards this season, with an average of 9 yards per carry. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior has 29 rushing touchdowns to his credit.

Working in West Orange’s favor, though, is that it wasn’t but six months ago that the Warriors were grappling with the same problem of how to deal with Patrick in preparing for their spring game.

West Orange won that contest, 38-35, and hopes it can build off of what worked then and what they have added since.

“Playing them in the spring was really good for us, because they’re a well-coached team,” Head said.

While the Wolves, who finished as runner-up in their district after falling to Oviedo Oct. 31, are a bit one-dimensional in their attack, the Warriors have thrived all season on getting everyone involved. Junior quarterback Woody Barrett has evolved as the year has progressed and looks more comfortable than ever distributing the ball to players such as senior running back Dexter Williams and receivers like McDoom, Jalen Julius and Mike Scott.

“If we can get a good passing game going on, it would be perfect,” McDoom said of West Orange’s offensive attack. “More of the players (on offense) are more confident that they can make the play. Now (the offense is) more efficient. Everyone is loose.”

The Warriors already have experienced one electric atmosphere this season when West Orange hosted Apopka in the de facto district championship. Players and coaches, while not content just to be a part of the playoffs this year, will admit they are excited to take the field on Friday in front of a packed house at Raymond Screws Stadium as playoff high school football returns to Winter Garden.

“I’m just glad to be part of this team on that great night,” McDoom said. “This is just a good experience for Winter Garden.”

Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].


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