After an uncharacteristic beginning to the regular season that included a rare shutout loss, Dr. Phillips High’s varsity football team capitalized on a window of opportunity Friday night.
The Panthers successfully opened their Class 8A, District 5 schedule with a 35-18 Homecoming victory over Oak Ridge at Bill Spoone Stadium.
Japerri Powell ran for 153 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns and Brandon Fields contributed 93 rushing yards and one score on 15 attempts, helping DP extend its current winning streak against district competition to 41 games while winning for the first time since Aug. 31.
Dr. Phillips (2-4, 1-0) dropped a 22-0 road decision at Daytona Beach Mainland in Week 5 – marking only the second time in 12 years that DP was held off the scoreboard – during which the Panthers committed four turnovers and averaged just 2.1 yards per carry. It was a different story against Oak Ridge, though, as DP totaled 278 yards on the ground behind effective zone-read plays and Wildcat formations.
A victory over Oak Ridge (3-3, 1-1) was vital to DP’s chances of claiming the District 5 championship and earning a top-four playoff seed in Class 8A Region 2. The Panthers, who host state-ranked Wekiva next Friday (Oct. 5), occupied the No. 10 spot in this week’s FHSAA playoff points system power rankings for Region 2, with a 36.40 average.
DP concludes the regular season with consecutive district games against Freedom (Oct. 12), Olympia (Oct. 19) and Cypress Creek (Oct. 25), who entered Week 6 with a combined 3-12 record
“We had to have this one. This one was absolutely our season,” DP head coach Rodney Wells said. “The guys came out in the first half and were the most fired up as I’ve seen them. They were locked in, they were focused and we put up 28 quick points.”
Dr. Phillips had a four-touchdown lead against Oak Ridge after the opening 17 minutes. Jaquarri Powell’s 7-yard touchdown run capped a 93-yard drive and Riley Stephens kicked the extra point to make it 28-0 with 7:10 left in the second quarter.
The Panthers had been outscored 42-10 in the first quarter through five games, but Dr. Phillips stormed out to a 21-0 lead over Oak Ridge by the 3:35 mark of the opening period. Of DP’s first five offensive plays, three resulted in touchdowns.
The defense and special teams also did their part.
Bryan Bell-Anderson tackled the Oak Ridge punter at the Pioneers’ 3-yard line after a low center snap – setting up Canaan Mobley’s 1-yard sneak to start the scoring at the 9:12 mark– and Bell-Anderson stopped Oak Ridge’s ensuing drive with an interception before Fields followed with a 77-yard touchdown run on the next play.
The Pioneers punted on their next series and, two plays later, Japerri Powell scored on a 52-yard run.
“The first quarter was the best quarter we’ve played for the last few years,” Wells said. “We hadn’t been on fire like that this year, but I saw it in the pregame and I saw it all week.”
Oak Ridge, which had its three-game winning streak stopped, regrouped and closed within 28-18 in the third quarter. Dre Curate posted touchdown passes of 18 and 5 yards late in the second quarter – the latter coming with 16 seconds to go in the first half – but the Pioneers came up short on all three of their two-point conversions.
Facing fourth-and-9 from the Dr. Phillips 49-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Oak Ridge threw an incomplete pass out of punt formation. The Panthers drove methodically into the end zone as Japerri Powell ran the ball seven times, highlighted by a 4-yard TD run with 4:28 remaining, and Stephens added the extra point to close out the scoring.
Japerri Powell had 49 rushing yards on 12 attempts after the opening five games.
“We just got a little more sense of urgency and a little more toughness. We got a couple defensive guys – both twins (Japerri Powell and Jaquarri Powell) – on offense and we just decided we were going to pound the ball,” Wells said. “Oak Ridge plays a physical game and we know they have a really good defense, but we were going to be patient.”