A stifling defense, and multi-touchdown night from Brandon Moreno and Jalen Thompson, helped hand head coach Rodney Wells his 100th victory.
A dominant defense and consistent offense helped Dr. Phillips to both a 41-9 win over rival Olympia, and to head coach Rodney Wells’ 100th win Friday, Oct. 16.
Wells, who is a Dr. Phillips alumnus, has led the Panthers to new heights since he took over as the program’s head coach in 2011 — winning the school its first football state title in 2017. And that success has largely been thanks to putting teams on the field that stifles opposing offenses and scores in chunks — which is exactly what the Panthers did Friday night against Olympia.
“I think we came out ready to play,” Wells said. “A couple of mistakes here and there took some points off in the first half … but I thought the guys came out and executed. Overall the guys were focused and did a great job.”
Coming into Friday night’s game the Panthers (4-1) had only suffered one loss — a 14-7 defeat at the hands of Apopka — this season, while Olympia had jumped out to a surprising 3-0 record; making for an intriguing matchup in a rivalry that has been lopsided over the years. Olympia last beat Dr. Phillips by forfeit back in 2010, but hasn’t beaten the Panthers on the field since 2004.
Things didn’t look promising early for the Titans (3-1), as the Panthers stormed down field on their first drive, which was capped off when quarterback Brandon Moreno hit Jalen Thompson for a 19-yard touchdown halfway through the first quarter. The Moreno-to-Thompson connection would strike again on a 25-yard touchdown pass with 1:35 left in the first quarter to help push the Panthers to a 14-0 lead. Thompson would finish the night with four catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns, while Moreno went 6-for-10 for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
The Titans would find their footing a bit better at the start of the second quarter when, after holding Dr. Phillips on fourth down at the Olympia 31-yard line, the Titans went downfield and picked up a 28-yard field goal by Jose Colunga. The Titans were set up by a phenomenal one-handed grab by Victor Jones Jr. inside the Panthers’ 10-yard line, before being forced to kick the field goal.
Less than a minute later — with 1:40 left in the first half — Dr. Phillips would tack on the last score of the quarter when, after starting their drive at midfield following a failed onside kick, Panthers’ running back Amir Johnson rumbled his way to a 33-yard touchdown. The extra point pushed the Panthers’ lead to 21-3.
The Titans would get one last chance to add points before the break, but Dr. Phillips’ Jaelen Jackson would pick off a halfback pass in the end zone to seal the Panthers lead at 21-3 at the half.
“It’s hard — this is a rival game and all these kids know each other,” said Wells in regard to keeping his guys motivated with a big halftime lead. “It’s hard, because when you’re up 21-3 and you start trying to get guys in the game the focus level tends to drop just a little bit. But what I like was the backups that were on the sidelines and they were the biggest cheerleaders out here — I really like that love and camaraderie that those guys show.”
Dr. Phillips’ focus never wavered in the second half, as the Panthers reeled off 20 points in the third quarter — which included a 25-yard toss from Joe Joe Patti to Joanes Fortilien, a pick-six by Alberto Guzman and a 16-yard run by Rodney Wells Jr.
“I think we came out ready to play. A couple of mistakes here and there took some points off in the first half … but I thought the guys came out and executed. Overall the guys were focused and did a great job.”
— Rodney Wells
Meanwhile, the Dr. Phillips defense would mostly shut out the Titans offense throughout the night, as the Panthers recorded four sack and two picks — which includes the Guzman pick-six. Senior defensive tackle Gerald Greaves led the way for the defense, as he picked up seven-total tackles — four for a loss — and three sacks.
The only time the Panthers defense caved a bit was on the last play of the game, when the Titans scored their lone touchdown of the night when quarterback Charles Brooks hit Victor Jones Jr. for a 29-yard touchdown.
The Titans will get the chance to rebound and get back to winning in a home game against Boone on Friday, Oct. 23, while the Panthers get next week off before they take on Oak Ridge at home Thursday, Oct. 29.
“It’s a great time to have a bye week,” Wells said. “We have a lot of guys banged up with ankles and wrists and fingers — a lot of of little things. We get to rest up and we get to get in shape and hit the weight room.”