Knights gain confidence in win

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  • | 12:02 a.m. October 1, 2015
SIDELINE SCENE: Turnaround season for Ocoee adds to interest in annual Shield Game
SIDELINE SCENE: Turnaround season for Ocoee adds to interest in annual Shield Game
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OCOEE —  In the first of its three home district games — all consecutive — to close its regular-season home schedule, Ocoee High School built momentum it hopes to carry throughout October with a 28-8 win over East Ridge Sept. 25.

After a 21-7 loss Sept. 18 to Edgewater to open district play, the Knights (2-2, 1-1) wanted to focus on finishing drives and minimizing mistakes, and they made progress against East Ridge (3-2, 0-1).

“The kids are starting to see what we’ve been preaching since the moment I got hired,” head coach Ben Bullock said. “They’re starting to find out the process, to be more disciplined than other teams, taking advantage of situations, getting turnovers. … They’re starting to believe because they can see it.”

Ocoee pounded its wet sod with numerous lengthy rushes, most by Jemerh Cosby and Jamel Hyatt, to finish three drives in the end zone.

But defense and special teams have been determinants in the Knights’ district contests. 

The East Ridge offense, which helped to score 58 points Sept. 18 against The First Academy, failed to score against Ocoee, which allowed no points until East Ridge blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown with two minutes left in the game.

By coincidence, the winning touchdown was linebacker Antonio Vargas’s second-quarter punt block and return — demonstrating how vital those units are to the Knights’ success, anchored by Vargas in the middle.

“Antonio was tough,” Bullock said. “We were … blitzing him a lot, trying to take away (East Ridge running back Tirrek Hooten), who I think is the leading rusher in the area right now. … He was getting beat up and tired, but he’s … going to run through a wall and make sure he does everything he can for us to win.”

 Against its last three opponents, the Ocoee defense has conceded just 28 points, an average of 9.33 points per game that has elevated team confidence in preparation for another tough rushing attack when Hagerty visits on Oct. 2, Bullock said.

“We got to make sure we’re firing on all cylinders, because (the Huskies) are going to be a very disciplined team,” Bullock said. “It’s going to be a little bit different because they run the single-wing … but we’ve been playing tough defense all year.”

Although pleased with the win, Bullock stressed discipline and ball security as key improvements. He said Cosby’s fumble at the East Ridge 1-yard line and the punt East Ridge blocked represented crucial moments when Ocoee made mistakes and did not finish drives.

“At the end of the (first) half, we had a chance to go up 21-0 and then get the ball back (on kickoff) in the second half,” Bullock said of the fumble. “Especially against better teams … we’ve got to punch those in. That’s where we have to go next as a program. … No matter what the result, we need to push hard all four quarters.”

Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].


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