Over the past few years the “Shield Game” hasn’t been kind to Ocoee.
The Knights went into Thursday night’s rivalry matchup having lost eight out nine to West Orange — with the last win coming in 2016 — but that didn’t phase Ocoee, even when things got dicey in the end.
After a pass from Ocoee quarterback Nick Wright was bobbled around by his receiver and picked off for a 75 yard pick-six by Matthew McDoom with 5:09 left in the game, the Knights’ defense stood tall and stuffed the Warriors on the possible game tying two-point conversion — a feat that would prove vital to grabbing a 22-20 victory and bragging rights.
“That feeling is surreal,” Wright said. “I just transferred here two years ago, so I’ve never played for something this big — the band was booming, the fans were loud. (West Orange players) were talking on social media and everything, but we weren't hearing it — we were like, ‘We still have to play football.’”
Coming into the game Thursday, Oct. 24, both West Orange (4-5) and Ocoee (4-5) were struggling mightily, with the Warriors riding a two game losing streak, while the Knights were on a five-game skid.
Despite the hardships of the season so far, the game against the Warriors showed what Ocoee head coach Aaron Sheppard knew his team was capable of.
“It was intensity and hustle — we did something tonight that we haven't done,” Sheppard said. “We’ve been down — we lost to Apopka and then we just spiraled all the way down… but it’s like that sometimes. (I told them) let’s fight, be who you are — be the winners that you are.”
The game itself started off with an exchange of empty possessions, before the Warriors landed the first blow of the night when quarterback Tyler Huff hit Jaylen Carlies for a 77-yard bomb with 4:21 left in the opening quarter. A Riley Boyd extra point would give the Warriors the 7-0 lead.
"I’ve never played for something this big — the band was booming, the fans were loud. (West Orange players) were talking on social media and everything, but we weren't hearing it — we were like, ‘We still have to play football.’”
— Nick Wright, Ocoee quarterback
Following a nice drive into Warriors’ territory, Ocoee’s Charles Pierre would reel off the first of the Knights’ two scores in the quarter on a 30-yard run, before Wright would successfully convert on the two-point conversion with 11:41 left in the half. A little over three minutes later and running back Dexter Rentz would gallop 35 yards for the score — the extra point handed the Knights a 15-7 lead.
The Warriors would respond with another massive pass from Huff to Carlies — this time for 50 yards. The extra point would cut the Knights’ lead to 15-14 with 6:32 left in the second quarter, but the score would hold for the Knights going into the half.
Out of the break the Warriors saw a change at quarterback as Huff — who had apparently been battling sickness — was replaced by Julien Calvez, who was seeing his first real action in a good while.
The second half would prove to be a bit different than the first, as both teams hunkered down on defense and held the opposing offenses scoreless in the third quarter of play.
It wouldn’t be until the 10:35 mark of the fourth quarter when the Knights would put it all together on offense to get what would be the game-sealing score.
After driving the ball deep into Warriors’ territory and converting on third-and-short at the West Orange 6-yard line, Wright would find the end zone on a short run. The extra point would make it 22-14.
What followed was McDoom’s big pick-six, and a failed two-point conversion that ultimately ended the night for the Warriors, while the Knights would go on to celebrate a rivalry win that required the spilling of blood, sweat and tears.
“We’ve come through a lot of adversity,” Wright said. “This game we just had to come out and win. This is our Super Bowl — we’re not going to the playoffs, so we had to play with everything that we had to come out and get this win.”
The Knights will finish off the regular season with a home matchup against Freedom Friday, Nov. 1, while the Warriors will look to rebound on the road against Jones.