Thanks to a five-touchdown night from receiver Brian Gomez, the Wildcats move on to the regional final against Wekiva.
Football is much like boxing – you throw a few punches and you get punched right back. By the end of the night it's all about who is left standing.
Thanks to some serious perseverance, big plays, and a career night for receiver Brian Gomez, the Wildcats were able to withstand a powerful Apopka offense as they knocked off the Blue Darters in a hard fought 34-27 win in the regional semifinal at Showalter on Friday night.
The Wildcats (12-0, 4-0) kicked off the night with the loudest bang possible, as four minutes into the game Gomez scored the first of his five touchdowns when he blazed 92-yards downfield for the quick touchdown. Though the PAT banged off the upright, the Wildcats still found themselves up with the early lead. The 92-yards was a chunk of Gomez's eventual 250 total yard of offense in the game (137 receiving and 113 rushing).
That lead wouldn't last long before the Blue Darters (10-4, 1-2) would utilize their unique single wing offense, as they marched right downfield before Davin White would score from one-yard out. On the PAT, a bobbled ball would cost the Blue Darters a chance at the lead.
Just as it looked as if the quarter would end tied up, the Wildcats would put the finishing touches on another nice drive when quarterback Cameron Legree tossed a ball 20-yards, which was hauled in on an athletic catch for Gomez. The PAT would make it 13-6.
Despite the excitement that filled the stands, the Wildcats' lead would evaporate in the second quarter, as the Blue Darters kept the Wildcats' defense confused.
Running back Cornelius Williams wreaked havoc as he went for a short one-yard touchdown run at the 11-minute mark, before going untouched on a 35-yard rushing touchdown – boosting the Blue Darters' lead 20-13 to end the half.
"It's a tough offense to stop – you can try to simulate it all week in practice, but you really cant, so it takes a while to really get the flow of what they're doing," said Wildcats head coach Tim Shifflet. "And we've been a great second half team all year – again, we proved it tonight. The kids stepped up, finally got some stops there the second half, and our offense was really clicking so I knew if we could get some stops, we'd have some shots."
And Shifflet was totally right, as his Wildcats team adjusted on both sides of the ball.
The offense came out on fire just as they had in the first quarter, as Gomez was on the receiving end of a huge 80-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the half. With the PAT, the Wildcats had tied the game right back up at 20-20.
As the Wildcats offense made noise, the defense had some difficulty to start the second half, as the Blue Darters answered on a two-yard score by Williams – his third on the night.
From there on, however, the Wildcats defense would make the right changes and totally stymie the Blue Darters offense, as they held the visiting team scoreless for the rest of the game.
The cheering from the away side bleachers wouldn't last long, as the Wildcats returned the favor by marching downfield and tying the game up on a five-yard rushing touchdown from Gomez.
From there on the Wildcats wouldn't look back as Legree found Lopez again for a 40-yard touchdown to put the nail into the Blue Darters' coffin – ending their season and hopes of a state title.
Meanwhile, for the Wildcats, it was another huge win for a team looking to stay perfect and keep their season going.
"All year long you work to earn that right – getting that number-one seed in the region was huge and this is where it starts to payoff," Shifflet said. "Because we get to play at home again next week and hopefully we get the bounces our direction and we find a way to win."
The Wildcats will have an even bigger game next week as they take on a talented Wekiva (11-1, 3-0) team who are coming off a regional semifinal win over Boone. The game is a 7:30 p.m. start time, and the winner will move on through to the state semifinal on Dec. 1.