The Knights' victory over the host Huskies gives Ocoee sole possession of first place in Class 7A, District 4.
OVIEDO The desperation onside kick went about as well as it could have.
With Ocoee leading the host Hagerty Huskies 20-13, and just over 30 seconds to play, the kicker for the Huskies bounced an onside kick that got about as much airtime as he could have hoped for — giving the Hagerty kickoff unit a chance to recover the ball and keep their hopes alive.
Fortunately for the Knights, a player that it had been everywhere for them on defense during the pivotal district matchup happened to be in the vicinity, and when Lyston Barber saw the ball float in the air above him he knew it was his for the taking.
“I knew I had to be the one to get it,” Barber said. “It sealed the game … this win is a dream come true against the hardest team in our district.”
Barber’s recovery capped an upset victory that improved Ocoee (3-2) to 3-0 in Class 7A, District 4 and handed the Huskies (4-1, 2-1 in district) their first loss of the season — avenging a loss from 2015 in the process.
The contest was played Saturday afternoon after poor weather and lightning prevented the game from beginning the night before.
Barber, who flew around the Hagerty backfield for tackles seemingly all day, was part of a defensive effort for the Knights that may have been the team’s strongest of the season yet.
“They played unbelievable — our defense made a superhuman effort,” head coach Ben Bullock said.
In addition to Barber’s strong play, senior defensive back Dorian Jones had two interceptions — including his first career pick-six. Junior running back Konrie Brown continued to flourish as the Knights’ featured running back, scoring twice on big runs (one of which came on a short pass from quarterback Jake Novello) — the second of which proved to be the deciding score.
“Our best players have got to make plays – and they did today,” Bullock said.
For someone like Jones, a senior who has played varsity since he was a freshman — suffering through a three-win season in 2013 and a two-win season in 2014 — the pivotal victory clearly stands out from others during his career.
“This has got to be No. 1,” Jones said. “It’s put us in the driver’s seat (in the district).”
The victory may even be the biggest yet in program history, arguably. It has put the Knights in sole possession of first place in the district and in prime position to capture the program's first-ever playoff berth.
“I can’t think of anything else,” Bullock said. “Beating an undefeated, unbelievably coached Hagerty team … I told those guys in the huddle that I hold all these things to say, planned and I can’t get it out right now because I’m just so happy for the kids.”
Mostly, Bullock says he was proud for his senior class — in their second season with him as their coach — to have a signature victory to hang their hats on.
“They’ve seen the lowlights for the program,” Bullock said. “We’ve got a lot of games to play. But, for tonight, it’s an unbelievable win for the kids.”
For Ocoee: The Knights will travel to Ocala to take on West Port (2-2, 2-1 district).
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].