In what is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated games of the year — it will be broadcast live on television and on the radio — the Dr. Phillips Panthers will travel to Apopka to take on the Blue Darters Sept. 16.
Both teams are 3-0 and harboring state-titles hopes.
And both — having cruised to their first three wins, respectively — are looking at this Week Four matchup as an opportunity to make a statement.
The game will be one where the matchup between the Panthers’ defense and the Blue Darters’ offense will be the most intriguing. In three games this season, Apopka has outscored its opponents by an eye-popping margin of 175-7.
“(Rick Darlington) is the most brilliant offensive mind in high-school football, probably in the state,” Dr. Phillips head coach Rodney Wells said. “If you try to do the same thing — have the same front, run the same blitzes — he will pick you apart. It’s like a chess game, and you’ve got to be in the right defense at the right time.”
Fortunately, the Panthers’ defense seems to be one of the few in Central Florida capable of slowing Apopka. Dr. Phillips has allowed just 17 points over its first three games, some of which have come after the first-team defense was pulled. Add to that the recent memory of having let a victory slip away in a 22-20 defeat against Apopka in 2015 at home, and the players for the Panthers are eager to show what they can do.
“We are just going to have a great week of practice and study them real hard, study film and be ready to play them,” said senior defensive end Robert Porcher.
The respect is a mutual one, as Apopka head coach Rick Darlington acknowledged Sept. 9 the challenge his team will face when they host Dr. Phillips.
“I know they’re (Dr. Phillips) really good,” Darlington said after his Blue Darters soundly defeated DeLand 35-0. “So it’ll be tough; there’s no question about it.”
Correspondent Jean Racine contributed to this report.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].