The Knights' 42-6 victory over Lake Howell improved the team to 5-0 in 7A-4 and gave the modern Ocoee High its first district title in football and first playoff berth.
OCOEE For a moment, it seemed like the dancing and celebrating would never stop — and why should it?
For the first time since the modern Ocoee High opened in 2005, the Knights are district champions in football and heading to the state playoffs.
In its second game in four days, Ocoee pummeled Lake Howell 42-6 Thursday night, improving to 5-2 overall and 5-0 in Class 7A, District 4.
With a six-game district schedule in the seven-team district, that means that only Hagerty can match the Knights' five district wins. Ocoee already owns the tiebreaker against the Huskies, thanks to road-victory at Hagerty Oct. 1.
And so, for the Knights' senior class — players such as Dorian Jones and Lyston Barber that chose to stick with the program despite winning a combined five games in 2013 and 2014 — Thursday's win was the ultimate validation.
"It just means everything to us," Jones said. "I can't put it into words right now."
Coach Ben Bullock took over the program after a 2014 season where Ocoee won just two games, and has led the Knights to an 11-6 record in his time so far at the helm. For Bullock, the Gatorade-shower his players rewarded him with was a sign that his vision for the program is progressing according to plan.
"It's amazing for the kids," Bullock said, reflecting on the ups and downs the senior class has endured. "The wave of emotions for those guys has to be unbelievable. ... I'm so happy for those guys — it's so special."
Ocoee got the scoring going early when quarterback Jake Novello hit Barber — a linebacker on defense — for the first of two touchdown receptions.
"It felt really good — I haven't scored a touchdown since Tiny Mites (in Pop Warner)," Barber said with a smile, adding that his grandmother was in attendance for her 91st birthday. "This is the first game she's come to since Pop Warner, so me scoring those two touchdowns meant a lot."
Adding to the offensive outpouring that Ocoee put on the Silver Hawks (5-2, 2-2 district) was another strong night from junior running back Konrie Brown. Brown rushed for 228 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
"I really want to give all the props to my offensive line — they made it open up for me and I just tried my best," Brown said.
Ocoee's defense continued its strong play in district competition, compiling several turnovers and allowing just one scoring drive for Lake Howell. The Knights have allowed just 11.8 points per game in five district wins.
"We're not even at our full potential yet — that's the scary part about it," Jones said.
The Knights have three games left on the schedule before they will host their first playoff game of the modern era. The old Ocoee High hosted one playoff game in 1969 after winning that school's only district title.
And while Bullock and his staff are eager to keep the team focused on Wekiva, Lake Minneola and West Orange — in that order — the second-year coach knows that tonight is a moment to remember.
"I'm going to let these guys enjoy it and we'll worry about Wekiva on Monday," Bullock said.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].