DR. PHILLIPS — A hold. A blocked kick. An interception.
Collectively, those three things — combined with a staunch Apopka defense — kept the Dr. Phillips Panthers from registering a go-ahead score in the waning moments of a 22-20 loss to the Blue Darters.
After going into the half leading Apopka 20-6, the Dr. Phillips (2-2) offense fell flat in the second half and mistakes on both sides of the ball allowed the Blue Darters to tie the game by the end of the third quarter. A safety on a botched snap would prove to be the deciding points in what was otherwise an exciting matchup of two of Central Florida's powerhouse programs.
"We made a lot of young mistakes; we’ve got a lot of sophomores and juniors that play," Dr. Phillips head coach Rodney Wells said afterward. “We had letdowns in all phases. It’s about all three phases."
Apopka scored first but big plays sparked the Panthers in the first half as they responded in kind. Marvin Washington split snaps at quarterback with Emare Hogan, who ran Dr. Phillips' variation of the wildcat offense to strong results in the second quarter. Hogan broke free on a 36-yard scamper to put the Panthers on the board.
After a defensive stop, Jaquarius Bargnare scored the first of his two touchdowns by returning a punt for a touchdown. Later, as the clock wound down on the half, Washington found Bargnare for a touchdown pass — though that would be the end of the offensive highlights for Dr. Phillips.
Led by quarterback Demetri Burch, Apopka (4-0) scored twice in the third quarter — capitalizing off of great field position in one instance, after its defense made a big interception.
For Dr. Phillips, it has been two heartbreaking losses against two of the state's best teams in the past two weeks as Wells and his program continue to navigate their gauntlet of a schedule. It gets no easier on Sept. 25 as the Panthers will host Class 6A powerhouse Mainland (Daytona Beach).
“These games build character; these games make you better," Wells said. "Like I told them, it’s better to go through it now than to go through it in the playoffs."