Ocoee football excited for fresh start in district play

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  • | 2:46 p.m. September 18, 2014
Ocoee football excited for fresh start in district play
Ocoee football excited for fresh start in district play
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Ocoee High School head football coach Dale Salapa knew the early part of the season would be a tough journey.

But, the trip has been a bit bumpier than expected.

The Knights, a Class 7A program, lined up against four Class 8A teams, starting with a Kickoff Classic matchup against Dr. Phillips on Aug. 22. They were outscored 155-7 by the Panthers as well as regular-season opponents Colonial, University (Orlando) and Winter Park. And while they were eager to make plays in all three phases of the game, the Knights were unable to do so with much consistency.

Ocoee is in a position to wipe the slate clean, though, and prepare for its second season as a Class 7A District 4 participant. 

The Knights are scheduled to play their 2014 district opener on Homecoming at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, against Lake Howell — a team that mustered only three total points during an 0-3 start.

“Any little good thing for these guys kind of gets a little fire going, but what we’ve done is we have a successful play, and, then, we get a penalty,” Salapa said. “For us, right now, second (down) and 20 (yards) is hard to overcome.”

Ocoee registered a 2-4 district record in its 7A-4 debut last season. The Knights opened with a 27-20 overtime loss to Lake Howell, which marked a trend: Ocoee’s district losses came by a combined 23 points and included an OT setback to Wekiva.

The race for a top-two district placing — and a berth in the Class 7A state playoffs — again appears to be up for grabs, although Oak Ridge and Wekiva are the early favorites. Teams making up 7A-4 posted a 5-16 cumulative record during the opening three weeks of the regular season, and that included defending district champion Winter Springs and East Ridge joining Ocoee and Lake Howell at 0-3.

Salapa said Ocoee’s players and coaches continue to improve as far “being on the same page.” However, miscues have held the Knights back during the regular season.

Ocoee committed eight first-half penalties and finished with three turnovers in last Friday’s 49-0 loss to Winter Park. The Wildcats built a 28-0 halftime lead as backup quarterback Nick Sproles threw touchdown passes of 29, 62, 18 and 15 yards.

Winter Park (3-0) faked a jet sweep on fourth down, and Sproles found Ronnie Fountain in the end zone against single coverage, a play that opened the scoring with 10:27 left in the first quarter on Military Appreciation Night at Ocoee High School.

“We’ve got to get a better practice and carry it into the games,” Salapa said. “The kids are so eager to make a play that they’re almost falling all over themselves. They want to anticipate the snap count and they want to get into their opponent. It’s not fear; it’s just that they want to make a play so badly.”

Against Winter Park, Ocoee was on the verge of its first points since Jarquavious Graham’s 77-yard TD reception against DP in the Kickoff Classic. Quarterback Steven Hogan led a nine-play, 53-yard drive to the Winter Park 4-yard line late in the third, but the Knights fumbled twice on the 10th play. Winter Park’s John Hodges grabbed the second fumble along the sideline and went 96 yards for a touchdown, making the score 34-0.

Hogan was in at quarterback for seven of Ocoee’s 12 offensive series, totaling 106 passing/rushing yards. David Flowers directed the Knights’ spread offense for five series and also saw time at wide receiver.  

“We had a good second-half drive, and we did a few things well on special teams,” Salapa said. “We missed a few plays on things they (the Wildcats) gave us that we didn’t execute, but I thought our offensive line pass-protection wise played much better tonight.”


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