- November 3, 2018
APOPKA All season long, the West Orange football team has been flirting with prospect of scoring a signature win.
For a team that went 2-8 a year ago, the Warriors have — under the radar — impressed in games against playoff teams from 2016.
In losses to Olympia, Dr. Phillips, Wekiva and Jones, coach Bob Head’s team has been in the vicinity of a program-building win since the season's first whistle. The Warriors either led at some point, had a chance to tie or win in each of those defeats.
And, on Friday night in Apopka, West Orange finally got over the hump and scored that signature victory — the Warriors topped the host Blue Darters 31-27, spoiling the home team’s Homecoming festivities.
“We felt like we’ve been knocking at the door,” Head said. “We’ve had a chance to win every game and so we kept telling ourselves ‘we can put it together — we can beat a good team.’
"I just give the credit to our seniors. Our senior never stopped fighting.”
Apopka scored on its opening drive, methodically marching down the field, and it took the Warriors (4-4, 1-1 in district) just two plays to respond on the ensuing drive, with Elijah Stimmell hooking up with Darrell Harding on a touchdown toss.
That opening exchange set the tone for the game, as the two teams exchanged the lead five times.
In a breakout performance, Harding would score another touchdown on an 80-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, and the standout was a key part of the Warriors' offensive attack.
Stimmell, who won the starting job during practice after beginning the season as West Orange's backup, tossed two touchdown on the night. His second came with under eight minutes to play, connecting with Keyshawn Goins for what would become the deciding touchdown.
Nemea Hall, who scored a touchdown in the second quarter, sealed the win for the Warriors in the game's waning moments when he rushed for a first down that allowed West Orange to run out the clock.
Afterward, Head praised his trio of top performers.
“They matched up man-to-man on (Harding) and there’s no one in the state of Florida that can cover him,” Head said. “Stimmell did a great job of getting the ball out … and Nemea has just been unbelievable all year and our offensive line has got it going.”
West Orange's defense, of course, earned praised from Head, too. Apopka's Akeem Brown rushed for nearly 300 yards, but the Warriors consistently got stops when they had to and forced and recovered a late fumble that helped end the Blue Darters' (7-2, 1-1 district) last push.
With the important district win, West Orange can hang on to some playoff hopes and, more importantly, point to a high-point for its bounce-back season.
“It’s really a signature win for this season,” Head said. “We’d been falling short, falling short … this win got us over the hump. We can compete with anybody in the state of Florida.”