Trailing 17-16 at halftime, the Panthers outscored the Warriors 21-0 in the third quarter.
After a back-and-forth first half that saw four lead changes, the Dr. Phillip Panthers (2-0) pulled away from the host West Orange Warriors (1-2) in the second half behind 21 unanswered points in the third quarter, en route to a 44-24 win.
“We continue to have to settle down at halftime,” Dr. Phillips head coach Rodney Wells said. “(In the) first half, we made some wrong coverages, wrong adjustments. (West Orange) did a couple things that we didn’t expect, they made two big plays on two big passes that we usually bat down.
“In the second half we just said 'look, those plays, we’re gonna make them in the second half' — and we came out and played offense and defense like we know how,” Wells said.
The Warriors got on the board first at the end of the first quarter on a 25-yard pass from Brenden Cyr to Darrell Harding.
The Panthers would respond on the ensuing drive, though, in the form of a 17-yard touchdown run from Brandon Fields.
After the teams traded field goals, Dr. Phillips retook the lead, 16-10, on an 81-yard touchdown pass from BeSean McCray to Davarius Bargnare.
The Warriors would respond again, this time with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Cyr to Harding with 33 seconds left in the half. West Orange went into the break with a 17-16 lead.
Dr. Phillips retook the lead following a quick drive capped off by McCray and Bargnare connecting again — this time with a 40-yard touchdown pass.
West Orange drove deep into Panther territory, but an interception by Bryan Bell-Anderson in the end zone gave the ball back to Dr. Phillips. Two plays later, Dr Phillips scored again on a 46-yard run from Devodney Alford to put the Panthers up 30-17.
McCray would throw one more touchdown, this time connecting with Michael Fox on a 64-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds remaining in the third quarter, capping the 21-point swing in the the quarter.
McCray threw for three touchdowns on the night, and Alford ran for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
West Orange will look to rebound next Friday when they host the Timber Creek Wolves.
The Panthers will take on the Apopka Blue Darters in one of the more anticipated games this year.
“We've got to play four quarters,” Wells said afterward, looking ahead to Apopka. "We have not played a complete four-quarter game. We gotta play a four-quarter game — no mistakes, no turnovers, no mental errors, no coverage busts. We play four quarters and we’ll be a really good team."
Nate Marrero is an aspiring student journalist and an Ocoee High alum who currently attends Valencia College.