- May 26, 2018
As rain fell off and on at Raymond Screws Field, there were no dampened spirits on the field or in the stands — thanks to West Orange’s 61-13 playoff-clinching win against Ocoee in the battle for the Shield on Friday, Nov. 2.
While the score looks lopsided, it still somehow doesn’t show how truly dominant the Warriors (7-3, 2-1) were on both sides of the ball. It was a performance that was so incredible that it left head coach Bob Head impressed.
“We had the capability to come out playing amazing, and we came out that first quarter and put up 28 points,” Head said. “We just came out and played really hard, and we’re clicking on all cylinders.”
Though there is a lot of credit to go around for the Warriors’ 61 points — the second-highest score they’ve put up all season — the trio of quarterback Elijah Stimmell, receiver Darrell Harding and running back Nemea Hall really set the stage for the home side.
In the final home game of their high-school careers, seniors Stimmell and Harding exploited and shredded the Knights’ (5-5, 4-2) defense.
Of Stimmell’s 342 passing yards (on 15-of-17 passing) and six touchdown tosses, Harding was on the receiving end on seven different occasions — picking up 233 yards and four touchdowns. Harding also had the longest play of the night when he scored on an 85-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter to make it 47-0.
“Darrell Harding is — in my opinion — the best wide receiver in the state of Florida,” Head said. “He dominated the game.”
Not wanting to miss out on the offensive carnival, junior Hall ran over the Knights’ defenders left-and-right, as he racked up 71 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries.
“We had the capability to come out playing amazing, and we came out that first quarter and put up 28 points. We just came out and played really hard, and we’re clicking on all cylinders.”
— Bob Head
Hall led off the scoring onslaught for the Warriors less than four minutes into the first quarter with a short six-yard run up the gut to take the 7-0 lead after the extra point.
“Nemea Hall, he is unbelievable — he is just a junior,” Head said. “He’s really come on, practicing hard and it’s really showed on game day.”
Though the well-lit scoreboard will be sure to draw most of the attention from folks, the Warriors’ defense itself had just as stellar of a night against a usually-potent Knights offense.
Coming into Friday night’s game, the Knights were averaging almost 30 points per game, thanks in part to the heroics of quarterback Nick Wright. Against West Orange, there would be no such offensive outbursts.
Right out of the gate the Warriors totally stifled the Knights, holding them to five straight three-and-outs in their first five drives of the game. The Knights wouldn’t pick up a first down until their first scoring drive just before halftime to make it 47-6.
For the rest of the game the Knights would only manage 203 total yards of offense, most of which came on Wright’s 101 yards through the air on 8-of-13 passing. Wright also accounted for the Knights’ two lone scores — a one-yard touchdown run and a 75-yard touchdown pass to Dexter Rentz that came in the third quarter.
“We had a good game plan, and we practiced really hard this week,” Head said of his defense. “Ocoee has a lot of speed on the perimeter… we worked all week and our guys came out and executed.”
While a win is always fun for bragging-right privileges, the West Orange victory over Ocoee also helps the Warriors seal up a spot in the postseason.
Coming into the game on Friday, the Warriors sat in seventh place in the Class 8A, Region 1 rankings at 38.7 points — just .1 points ahead of eighth-place Flagler Palm Coast. Only eight teams per region make the playoffs.
And luckily for the Warriors — along with their big win — Flagler Palm Coast lost in its final game of the season back on Oct. 25.
Now the Warriors will take it a day at a time, as they wait and prepare to see who they’ll be taking on in the first round of playoffs.
“Any kind of win is big, but it’s a big win for the seniors on senior night,” Head said. “To get into the playoffs, to win like this, the momentum that carries into next week is what’s most important.”