- September 26, 2015
OCOEE — After a blowout home loss to Apopka, the Ocoee Knights football team won 20-7 at Lake Nona and then lost 21-7 at Edgewater in its district opener.
With almost identical scores from the last two games, the Knights showed they can be a team that finishes drives or does everything but score.
They want the former in a return home Sept. 25 against East Ridge, the start of a three-game home stand representing the rest of Ocoee’s home contests. The latter was the case Sept. 18 at Edgewater.
“We’re a good football team that made mistakes when it counted tonight,” head coach Ben Bullock told his players after the Edgewater game. “In this district, it’s a gauntlet, and we can still run it.”
In that mostly defensive contest, the Ocoee defense held its ground at key moments throughout. An offense led by stealthy slash player Craig Rucker — who helped the Eagles score 25 points at Apopka — barely scored three touchdowns, with only one long run breaking the Knight defense.
The Ocoee offense made plays in the first half, especially with nickel-and-dime runs and then long completions to receiver Darryl Gay, including a touchdown for a 7-7 score at halftime.
“We did run the ball at times well, and we probably should have done that a bit more,” Bullock said. “Gay did a great job this week. When he caught the football, he secured that and was ready to make something happen.”
In the second half, both teams struggled to string drives together after a lengthy Edgewater touchdown drive started the half.
The Knights might have been just two fourth-quarter plays from taking control, even as they went three-and-out after Antonio Vargas recovered a fumble on a field goal attempt during a goal-line stand.
First, the Ocoee punt team fell just short on its fake, a pass on what Bullock said had been a punt order. That gave Edgewater the ball at the Ocoee 30.
Second, at the end of another adamant stonewall for the Knights on the ensuing drive, the Eagles chose to try converting on fourth down, perhaps because of their kick team’s failure the prior drive. Rucker lobbed a high pass like a Hail Mary for a fourth-down conversion all the way to the Ocoee 6.
He dashed to the end zone on the next play to make it 21-7 with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left.
“We were 7-7 at halftime, and great things were happening,” Bullock said. “We came out and … they’re going to score points. I believe they scored (56) points last week against Jones. We made some mistakes defensively, but that was a ballgame right up until the end.”
But with an Ocoee punt instead of a fake, maybe that Edgewater three-and-out turns into a punt from near midfield, or maybe Rucker’s lob falls incomplete. Either produces another shot for the Knight offense, which rapidly moved downfield on its final drive after that last touchdown. Maybe instead of hurrying to score twice, Ocoee quarterback Steven Hogan has more time to score once and does not throw an interception at the Eagles’ 8 on his final snap.
“We left a lot of points out there,” Bullock said. “We just need cleaner execution.”
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].