Blue Darters a team of destiny?
The rivalry game is what players and fans alike mark on their schedules and anticipate all season. It is the ultimate measurement of a team’s progress. In some cases it can be more important than the rest of a team’s games all by itself. But oftentimes these games don’t live up to the hype or expectation. Sometimes one team is clearly better and the rivalry quickly transitions into a rout. The game is a letdown and the season continues without mention of that “big” game.
Apopka vs. Dr. Phillips was no such letdown. It’s a game that will be talked about for years to come.
This is a rivalry that’s not based on proximity, conference or divisional reasons. This is a rivalry based entirely on performance.
Both the Blue Darters and Panthers are high school football dynasties in Central Florida… steeped in tradition, with a history of success and a roster-full of talented players that will be playing college football on Saturdays and some that will likely be playing in the NFL on Sundays in the near future.
Two seasons in a row, the Apopka – DP rivalry has been epic. Last season, the Blue Darters rallied from a 20-6 halftime deficit to win 22-20.
This season was even closer.
The Blue Darters trailed 14-0 at halftime, but for the second straight season came-from-behind with two second-half touchdowns and an ad-libbed 2-point conversion to edge the Panthers 15-14. It is said too often that neither team deserved to lose, but in this case, it’s hard to see Dr. Phillips as a loser.
Marvin Washington is a senior quarterback for the Panthers with a cannon arm and a heart of gold. In the first half , he displayed that talent when he avoided pressure, saw junior wide receiver Jequan Burton streaking down the sideline and led him on a 45-yard touchdown pass that looked effortless as Burton caught the strike in stride and scored. The touchdown gave the Panthers a 14-0 lead, which they took to halftime.
Senior running back Deshawn Massey is a 5’3″ senior running back. 5-foot-3-inches! He, like Washington is filled with talent and a desire to win. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the field and at any time.
And if there was ever a time and place to score it was down 14-0 to DP on the first drive of the second half.
Massey took a short pass, broke three tackles, turned upfield, and ran 49 yards to give the Blue Darters a new lease on life, cutting the Panther lead to 14-7 early in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the play of the night came from Apopka quarterback Demetri Burch on the most routine of plays – the extra point attempt.
But before that the Blue Darters took advantage of a shanked 20-yard punt by Dr. Phillips late in the third quarter, starting just 35 yards from the end zone. Nine plays later, Burch scored from five yards out to make it a 14-13 Panther lead with the tying extra point to follow.
Burch bobbled the snap from center, picked up the football and ran past defenders for an unplanned two-point conversion to give Apopka its first lead of the night 15-14 with 10:32 left in the game. It was a decision he made in a split second, and his speed combined with presence of mind turned out to be the difference in the game.
Despite being shut down the entire second half, Washington and the Panthers had one last drive with 80 yards to go and 5:54 left on the clock. And not surprisingly, he took over the game.
Washington threw for 2 first downs (one on fourth down and five yards to go with 2:17 left in the game) and ran for two more. 11-plays and 75 yards later, he had driven the Panthers to the Apopka five yard line with 30 seconds left to play in the game. The Panthers could have run the clock down, called a timeout and attempted a chip-shot field goal to win 17-15, but instead Washington looked to the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown pass that would seal the victory for DP. It was an impressive drive and a heroic effort, but it came up one play short.
Earlier in this drive, Apopka cornerback Jarvis Ware dove in the direction of an errant pass, but was unable to make the interception, which would have won the game for Apopka. Ware pounded his fist into the ground in frustration, but his chance to secure a victory for the Blue Darters was not over. With the clock running and less than 30 seconds remaining, Ware stepped in front of Washington’s final throw in the Apopka end zone and intercepted the pass to close this movie script of a football game.
So many heroes.
Apopka has six games left on its regular season schedule. Only one of those teams (Olympia High School, 3-1) has a winning record. It is likely Dr. Phillips will be the toughest opponent that the Blue Darters face until the playoffs begin. And it would surprise no one if Apopka and Dr. Phillips square off again in one of those playoff rounds – perhaps even in a state championship.
Enjoy this Blue Darter football team Apopka. They are showing signs at mid-season of a team with a destiny that keeps them playing into December.