Holds on to thwart Panther rally

Another classic.

The Apopka Blue Darters defeated the Dr. Phillips Panthers 21-14 at Bill Spoon Stadium on the campus of Dr. Phillips High School. The Blue Darters took a 14-0 lead into halftime and held on as the Panthers fourth-quarter rally fell short. Apopka improves its record to 6-1 on the season.

It was the third straight win for the Blue Darters over Dr. Phillips – all one possession games ending on the very last drive of the game.

After a 55-12 thrashing of Jacksonville Mandarin on Friday night, it didn’t take long for Apopka to pick up where they left off when junior running back  Cornelius Williams took the second play from scrimmage 68 yards for a touchdown. After a Titus Vandiver kick, the Blue Darters took a 7-0 lead after only 26 seconds.

The Blue Darters scored again before the end of the quarter when Jackson Darlington hit Jalen Carter on a 22-yard touchdown strike. Vandiver’s kick was good and Apopka ended the period up 14-0.

Neither team was able to score in the second quarter, but the Apopka defense was stifling in the first half, sacking Dr. Philips senior quarterback BeSean McCray three times and keeping him off balance throughout.

The Panthers never came close to scoring in the first half, but in the second half, they cut the lead in half on the very first drive when McCray avoided an Apopka blitz and hit senior running back Devodney Alford who ran 45 yards for a touchdown. Senior kicker Sterling Stockwell’s extra point was good, and Apopka’s lead was cut to 14-7.

However, the Blue Darters answered right back with a seven-play, 80-yard drive that featured a 50-yard run from sophomore running back Akeem Brown. Williams scored his second touchdown on the night from four yards out, and after another Vandiver kick, Apopka led 21-7 with 4:56 remaining in the third quarter.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Panthers scored again on a 6-play 55-yard drive featuring a Mc Cray scramble that covered 42 yards, then McCray threw a 15-yard touchdown pass, and the kick by Stockwell cut the Blue Darter lead to 21-14 with 7:35 left in the game.

Although they didn’t score, Apopka went on a clock-chewing drive of 12 plays, 70 yards and 5:27 of the clock, which gave the ball back to the Panthers on their own 10-yard line with only 2:08 remaining in the game.

Dr. Phillips final drive only got to their own 30-yard line before they gave the ball back on downs and the Blue Darters ran out the clock.

Coming into the game, Dr. Phillips (4-2) was ranked #1 in the State Class 8A Associated Press poll, but after a 14-0 loss to Wekiva on Friday, and a 21-14 loss to Apopka, are almost certain to fall. Apopka (ranked #3 in the same poll), after wins over Mandarin on Friday and the Panthers tonight, is almost a certainty to move up.

It was a big night for the Blue Darter running game, with Williams running for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Brown going for 138 yards. In total, Apopka rushed for over 300 yards.

The Blue Darters return home Friday night to face district rival West Orange High School. Kickoff is at 7PM.

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