Opens district play with a clarifying win

It’s been a confusing and detached season for the Apopka Blue Darters. The September schedule was highlighted by rain/lightning delays, postponements, cancellations due to Hurricane Irma and unusual opponents like Miami Norland, and the Lakeland Dreadnaughts. Despite the disorienting nature of the early season, Apopka managed a 3-1 record, but as the rain and wind of the early season subsided, the clarity of district play came into view tonight.

In contrast to the early season, district play is simple. There are four teams in District 8A-4: Apopka, Evans, Wekiva, and West Orange. The four teams play a three-game round-robin. The team with the best record wins the district and goes to the state playoffs. Easy.

Apopka seemed to like the simplicity of district play, as they blasted the Evans Trojans 57-12 to open district play 1-0 and improve its overall record to 4-1. Evans fell to 3-2 on the season and 0-1 in the district.

The Blue Darter quick strike offense returned when sophomore tight end Jalen Carter took a handoff on a trick play and rumbled 50 yards for a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage. Running Back Eric Wright scampered past Evans defenders for the two-point conversion, and Apopka took an 8-0 lead with only 22 seconds expiring.

The Apopka defense stopped a fourth down conversion when junior defensive tackle slammed into Evans senior quarterback Deandre Moody, giving Apopka the ball on downs.

With great field position, Blue Darter quarterback Jackson Darlington ran up the middle 28 yards for the second Apopka touchdown of the evening with 8:19 left in the first quarter. Darlington also rushed into the end zone for the two-point conversion to double the Apopka lead to 16-0.

Evans answered on the next drive with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Moody to senior running back Daryl Tramel on a fourth down conversion. The extra point failed, and the quarter ended with Apopka ahead 16-6.

Early in the second quarter, Apopka took advantage of a muffed punt and started its drive on the Evans 10-yard-line. After an illegal procedure penalty and a fumbled snap, freshman running back Eric Wright took a double reverse to the end zone. The extra point failed, but Apopka extended its lead to 22-6 with 9:17 remaining in the second quarter.

After a three-and-out by the Trojan offense, the Blue Darters marched 68 yards on five plays, featuring a 36-yard run by Wright. Junior running back Cornelius Williams went untouched around right end for a 10-yard touchdown run. Williams also slammed into Trojan defenders and into the end zone to successfully complete the two-point conversion to give the Blue Darters a 30-6 lead with 5:51 left in the second quarter. On the very next drive, Wright sailed into the end zone again from 30 yards out. The extra point missed, but Apopka led 36-6.

Just before the half ended, Moody ran five yards for a Trojan touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, and the half ended with Apopka in control 36-12.

The Blue Darters kept the offensive onslaught in gear on their very first drive of the second half, going 52 yards in eight plays, with Darlington scoring his second touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run. Freshman kicker Titus Vandiver added the extra point to give Apopka a 43-12 lead with 6:26 remaining in the third quarter.

Darlington hit Shaderrick Bradford on a touchdown pass to open the fourth quarter. Vandiver added the extra point and Apopka led 50-12, and after an interception by sophomore strong safety Billy Riley, the Blue Darters piled it on when Apopka running back Reshard Sibley scored with less than five minutes remaining on a 5-yard run. Vandiver made the extra point, and Apopka closed out the rout 57-12.

The Blue Darters travel to Jacksonville to play the Mandarin Mustangs in a non-district game next week. Mandarin is 2-3 on the season. Kickoff is at 7 pm.

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