Warriors top Apopka in second round of state playoffs, 21-14
West Orange advances to the Class 8A, Region 1 Championship for the first time in program history.
| 11:23 p.m. November 20, 2015
WINTER GARDEN For a moment, a sense of dread began to set in.
After the West Orange Warriors had led for most of the Class 8A, Region 1 Semifinals, the Apopka Blue Darters scored and took a 14-13 with 8:22 left in the game. At that moment, an air of anxiety that had been lingering on the field and in the stands at Raymond Screws Field —one fueled by the Blue Darters' dogged determination to keep within striking distance — hit its peak.
Fortunately, it didn't last long.
Less than a minute after Apopka scored, quarterback Woody Barrett hooked up with wide receiver Naquan Renalds for a 61-yard touchdown — Renalds' second touchdown reception of the night and arguably the biggest of his young career. The West Orange defense would get two more stops after that, punctuated by a game-sealing interception by safety Ben Bollinger, to score a 21-14 win and earn the program's first-ever appearance in a regional championship.
"I dropped a ball (earlier) and I knew I had to make it up," Renalds said. "Woody Barrett throwing (me) touchdowns — I love that dude, I love my team."
While Renalds recorded the game-winning touchdown, it was the Warriors' (11-1) defense that shined against Apopka for a second time this fall. After allowing just three points in a regular-season victory over the Blue Darters, West Orange's defense limited Apopka to just 14 points on Friday.
For Bollinger, picking off a pass to seal a huge victory is becoming something of a habit this fall — his interception against Dr. Phillips back on Sept. 11 cemented that win, also. So, when a pass hung up in the air and created a jump ball situation, it wasn't entirely surprising that the senior safety was the one to come down with it.
"It's never clear who is going to come down with (a jump ball) ... what's running through your head is 'who wants this ball more?'" Bollinger said. "Luckily no one else wanted (that ball) as bad as me."
Warriors coach Bob Head praised his team's resilience after the game for fighting back against an Apopka team that had advanced to the Class 8A State Championship Game in each of the previous three seasons.
"We just looked at each other and said 'we've got to come up big again,'" Head said of the moments after the Blue Darters had taken the lead. "Us rallying, and getting that touchdown — then going for two and getting that — it was just one of those games and we just continued to fight."
West Orange will travel to Jacksonville Nov. 27 to take on Mandarin (12-0) in the Class 8A, Region 1 Championship.