ORLANDO -- In a mostly defensive game, the Ocoee defense held its ground at key moments throughout the second half Sept. 18 at Edgewater.
But slash player Craig Rucker burst through a hole from six yards out to seal a 21-7 Eagles victory with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game.
The Knights were able to enter halftime tied, 7-7, thanks to a late touchdown reception by receiver Darryl Gay. Gay crossed the goal line with 1:05 left in the second quarter, after he caught the ball about 15 yards downfield, shook off a tackler and then dashed more than 20 yards near the right sideline. Antonio Vargas had pounced on a fumbled Edgewater handoff in Ocoee territory to give the Knights that chance late in the first half.
Gay had several long gains on catches -- accounting for most of Ocoee's big offensive plays and all but one of its points -- such as a 13-yard play immediately preceding his scoring catch.
"We did run the ball at times well, and we probably should have done that a bit more," Bullock said. "Gay did a great job this week. When he caught the football, he secured that and was ready to make something happen. He's doing a much better job of that so he can ... catch and run ... and then make a move in that space and maybe break some tackles with his speed."
Ocoee lost its halftime momentum when Edgewater abruptly drove 67 yards to score on the first possession of half two, just 3 minutes, 5 seconds in.
"We were 7-7 at halftime and great things were happening," Bullock said. "We came out and ... they're going to score points. I believe they scored (56) points last week against Jones. We made some mistakes defensively, but that was a ballgame right up until the end."
Still, when the Eagles drove all the way to the Knights' 3-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, the Ocoee defense stopped four runs -- one negated by an offensive penalty -- and then rushed a bad field goal snap to give its offense a chance to tie the game with 7 minutes, 36 seconds remaining.
A three-and-out put Ocoee's punt team on the field as one of many special teams plays for both teams. But a reception on a fake left the Knights just short at their 20, displeasing Bullock, who had decided to punt the ball.
"We left a lot of points out there," he said. "Our running game at times was good; obviously Gay with the passing game... We just need cleaner execution."
Again the Knights defense held its ground to force a fourth down, but this time Rucker lobbed a pass caught at the 6 for a first down. He scored the game's final touchdown on the next play.
"He makes one guy miss, you got to make sure to have 11 guys to pursue and get multiple guys to the point of attack," Bullock said. "We weren't getting enough guys to the point of attack, and when we did -- he's an excellent player -- he's sometimes going to make two or three guys miss."
Rucker had scored the first touchdown of the game, too, a run of about 46 yards up the gut on fourth-and-1 with 5 minutes, 4 seconds left in quarter one. Bullock said coaches and players had to communicate better to avoid mistakes and getting beaten in gaps, such as the hole Rucker flowed through on that play.
"We're a good football team that made mistakes when it counted tonight," Bullock told his players after the game. "In this district, it's a gauntlet, and we can still run it."
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].