OVIEDO – Michael Bonneville escaped a Gatorade bath for as long as he could last Friday.
But, it was inevitable that Central Florida Christian Academy’s first-year varsity football coach would receive the ceremonial splash following the Eagles’ victorious performance against The Master’s Academy.
It was also well-deserved.
CFCA’s third season in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference has generated a playoff berth. The SSAC jumped to 27 teams for the 2014 season, and the Eagles will be one of eight schools competing for the league championship when postseason play begins later this month.
Joining the SSAC breathed life into a CFCA program that endured a winless 2011 season while competing in Class 2A within the Florida High School Athletic Association. The Eagles (6-1) not only continued to build on the school’s single-season win record with last week’s 50-0 victory over TMA at Pennington Field, but also they clinched second place in the Beach Division and a spot in the upcoming Coastal League semifinals.
“We’re very excited, and there’s been a lot of hard work done,” Bonneville said. “We’re just thankful for the opportunity, the support of the fans and the commitment of the boys and the coaches. We knew we had a chance (in the Beach Division) if we played our football, which is physical football.”
Bonneville said a bye in Week 8 comes at an ideal time for CFCA.
“Thank goodness we haven’t had any big injuries all year,” he said. “We do a great job with strength and conditioning with the boys and everything, but we needed this bye week. We want to use our next game like a warm-up game to make sure we’re hitting on all cylinders.”
The Eagles host All Saints Academy (3-3) for Homecoming/Senior Night at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24, in the regular-season finale. The SSAC playoffs — also dubbed The Florida Bowl Series — kick off Oct. 31, with CFCA playing the Coastal League Orange Division champion.
The Florida Bowl, matching the Coastal and Coral league champions, is scheduled for Nov. 15 on The Master’s Academy campus.
CFCA has won three consecutive games since a turnover-plagued loss to Beach Division champion Orlando Christian Prep in Week 4. The Eagles amassed 495 total yards last Friday against TMA, while the defense registered six sacks and recovered two fumbles en route to its second shutout of the season.
Bonneville installed a single-wing offense this season with impressive results thus far.
Freshman quarterback Gehrig Chambless has 11 rushing touchdowns through seven games after running for 152 yards and two scores against The Master’s Academy. Sophomore Bradley Dos Santos, who earned All-SSAC second-team honors at wide receiver in 2013, also upped his season touchdown total to 16 after reaching the end zone versus TMA on 26- and 52-yard receptions and an 87-yard run.
“Actually, we were thinking about going to this offense in spring, but we just thought it was too short a time period to throw in for three weeks. But we always had a plan to go to this offense,” Bonneville said. “Putting Bradley in a position where he can be an athlete and get the football in his hands, it almost reminds you a little bit of (former Apopka Blue Darter and Michigan Wolverine) Jeremy Gallon in the single wing years ago.”
Bonneville played high school football at Dr. Phillips — he still holds the Panther record for longest punt return for a touchdown (95 yards vs. Oviedo in 1997) — and the way CFCA is playing defense this year would certainly appeal to defensive-minded DP head coach Rodney Wells.
TMA was kept off the scoreboard despite a favorable average starting field position (own 41-yard line) for its opening nine drives.
“If you talk about Coach Wells — we played high-school ball together — I always go to him in the summer to get some pointers of what he does,” Bonneville said. “But, we’ve kind of stuck to what fits our style on defense.”
TMA faced a fourth-and-11 play at the CFCA 15-yard line with just over five minutes left in the second quarter, but Chambless made a nice sideline tackle on quarterback Evan Lowe after a 10-yard gain. Four plays later, Dos Santos gained 87 of his 169 rushing yards to give the Eagles a 28-0 lead.
Chambless’ 38-yard touchdown run and Dos Santos’ two-point run made the score 36-0 and started a running clock with 7:58 remaining in the third quarter. Judah Stone added a 36-yard TD run with 9:40 left and, following a blocked punt deep in TMA territory, Tyler Laylor scored on a 1-yard run as CFCA completed its Beach Division schedule with a 5-1 record.