Wins by both West Orange and Ocoee have set up a local rematch of epic proportions. The Warriors and Knights clash this Friday.
And then, there were three.
Following the first week of playoffs of the 2022-23 football season, two of the five local teams are out.
However, West Orange High School, Ocoee High School and The First Academy continue standing on the football field, their dreams of a state title still alive.
WEST ORANGE HIGH SCHOOL
The Warriors had a statement win against Steinbrenner High School in the first round of the playoffs — a 35-0 thrashing Saturday, Nov. 12, at home.
“I’m proud of the way the team played,” head football coach Geno Thompson said. “We’ve got to fix some penalties on offense. We had a lot of drive stall due to penalties. Defense played lights out. When you hold a team that’s averaging 36 points a game to 0, that’s phenomenal.”
The Warriors’ offense took advantage of the numerous opportunities to reach the end zone and scored its first touchdown late in the first quarter. By halftime, the Warriors had put two more touchdowns on the scoreboard.
“It’s really been a team effort; I don’t want to put all of it on me,” said wide receiver Jordyn Bridgewater, who hauled in four catches for a whopping 93 yards and a touchdown. “It’s really a team effort, because without the O-Line, Trever (Jackson) couldn’t get the ball to me. And without Trever, I can’t get the ball. I think I have contributed a lot to the success of this team, but I can’t take all the credit.”
Steinbrenner struggled to move the ball out of its side of the field throughout the game, and West Orange’s speed and accuracy allowed for long completions coupled with a potent run game (137 yards total).
The win sets up a rematch with crosstown rivals Ocoee Friday, Nov. 18. In their first meeting Nov. 1, West Orange cruised to a 41-17 victory over the Knights. But, the Warriors know another win won’t be easy.
“We’ve got to continue to improve, fix the penalties, to help us be able to be successful on those drives — and just continue to love on each other,” Thompson said.
“This is my third consecutive year going to the playoffs,” Bridgewater said. “I want to get further than what we got last year and the year before — (which was) third round — and win the state championship.”
OCOEE HIGH SCHOOL
After dropping two consecutive losses to Dr. Phillips (28-25) and West Orange (41-17) to close the regular season, the Ocoee Knights showed up when it mattered most — the playoffs.
The Knights traveled to Plant City Saturday, Nov. 12, to face a tough Durant Cougars team (8-3). Thanks to a monster game from running back Keyondray Jones (25 carries for 146 yards and one touchdown), the Knights took a 21-7 lead into halftime.
The Cougars started to stage a comeback in the third quarter with 12 unanswered points to push the score to 21-19. However, Ocoee weathered that storm and scored 21 points in the final frame and held the Cougars to eight.
The defense put up some Madden-like numbers — 12 sacks — to keep Durant off balance.
The final score: 42-27.
Now, Ocoee is seeking revenge as it faces West Orange in the second round. The Knights lost to the Warriors 41-17 on Nov. 1.
OLYMPIA HIGH SCHOOL
After a strong regular-season campaign, Olympia faced East Lake in the first round of the Class 4A, District 5 playoffs.
However, the Titans were unable to get past the vaunted Eagles (10-1) and fell 31-20 Saturday, Nov. 12.
“It was a tough loss,” head football coach Travis Gabriel said. “You hate to see your season end like that, but I’m very proud of what the kids did this year. Hopefully, this is something to look forward to in the future.”
In what was a battle of offensive lines, the Titans’ mistakes on the field cost them the game and, ultimately, their season.
“We just made too many mistakes, too many costly mistakes, and you can’t make that many mistakes when you are playing against a team that’s as good as them,” Gabriel said. “They just capitalized on our mistakes and that’s what it came down to, the team that made the most mistakes was the team that lost and unfortunately, we lost that game.”
The Legacy Charter Eagles came up one game short as they fell 47-7 to Saint Stephen’s Episcopal in SSAC 5A State Championship Saturday, Nov. 12.
After what it was an incredible regular season with an overall 6-4 record, the Eagles made school history when it rumbled its way into the state championship game.
“It was a tough game; it was a tough loss,” head football coach Ryan Locuson said. “But, all in all, looking at it from our season perspective, we had a great season. Definitely went the furthest that any team has gone here at Legacy. Our guys fought hard all year — left everything out on the field — so I can’t be upset at them. All in all, it was a great year, and I’m looking forward to the future.”
THE FIRST ACADEMY
The Royals are waiting patiently for their first game of the playoffs against University Christian Friday, Nov. 18.
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