Charles Pierre Jr. and Dylan Wade each ran over 100 yards on the night, while the Ocoee defense shut out the Trojans' offense in the second half.
In the only show in town Monday, Oct. 5, Ocoee posted 22 unanswered points in the second half to push the Knights to a 43-22 win over Evans.
Monday night’s game was pushed back from the usual Friday time slot to give Evans — which hadn’t played a game yet due to being quarantined for two weeks following cases of COVID-19 on the team — a few extra days to prepare for its first game.
That meant it took some adjustments on the side of Ocoee (2-1) to get ready for the matchup, said Ocoee head coach Aaron Sheppard.
“Sunday is tough, but we gave them off Sunday because they worked hard on Saturday,” Sheppard said. “We brought them in on Saturday and it was supposed to be a little 30 to 40 minute walkthrough — and when we didn't see what we liked, we got at it and we started practice over a few times… it was just some things we needed to clean up on Saturday. It’s just a little different.”
Despite being in their first game of the season, it was Evans (0-1) that looked like the most ready team on the field as the Trojans stormed past the Knights’ defense, which concluded with a 2-yard touchdown run by Jeremiah Simms. The following two-point conversion would be picked off by Ahlston Ware, but Evans would take the 6-0 lead with 7:51 left in the first quarter.
Forty-five seconds after a fumble by Ocoee quarterback Dylan Wade on the Knights’ opening drive, the Ocoee defense would strike quickly as Chryse Gunn recovered a fumble at the Evans’ 20. About four minutes later the Knights would open up their scoring when — on fourth-and-inches at the goal line —Charles Pierre Jr. rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point would be blocked — even though it appeared the Evans defender jumped early — and left the score knotted up at 6-6 with 2:57 left in the opening quarter.
The Knights and Trojans would go back and forth for most of the half, with Simms picking up his second touchdown of the night — with a two-point conversion to go with it — before Wade would run it in on a short run to help tie the game up at 14-14.
With 2:07 left in the half, Ocoee would take its first lead of the night when Tyler Nelson snagged himself a 20-yard pick-six, which along with an extra point from Evan Kowaski, made it 21-14 Knights. But the lead wouldn't last, as Evans stormed downfield and quarterback D.J. Boney hit Alonzo Allen for a 7-yard touchdown with four seconds left. The two-point conversion gave the Trojans a 22-21 advantage at the half.
“We always preach small details,” Sheppard said. “There are some things I believe in — I believe that the critical few behaviors that you have determine everything that you do… for us we have to be hard working and we have to be disciplined. In the first half we weren’t disciplined, but we were hard working.”
At the break Sheppard spoke to his team about paying attention to those small details, and it obviously worked as the Knights’ defense shutout Evans for the rest of the game, while the offense continued to click against a Trojans’ defense that showed fatigue as the game went on.
Pierre once again ran it in for a short touchdown about halfway through the third quarter, before Wade would pick up two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help push the Knights to the 43-22 victory. Pierre would finish with 103 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, while Wade ran for 104 yards and three touchdowns.
Ocoee won’t have long to enjoy Monday night’s win, as the Knights travel to Celebration on Friday, Oct. 9.
“Last year we had to do it and it was Lake Nona and Apopka,” Sheppard said. “So this year is a little different, but — I mean — we’re just going to go after it.”