Blue Darter Football 2017:
Cornelius Williams runs wild in pre-season win
The Apopka Blue Darters capped off a perfect undefeated 2016 season with a 43-6 victory over the Orlando Evans Trojans. Apopka finished the season 9-0 and 3-0 in 8A District 4. It was Apopka’s first undefeated regular season since 1994, and Head Coach Rick Darlington’s first undefeated season in 15 years.
Then shockwaves hit Roger Williams Field.
In the first round of the 2016 playoffs, the Timber Creek Wolves rallied from a 39-27 deficit with two touchdown passes in the final six minutes, and intercepted two passes in the last three minutes to shock the Blue Darters 40-39 and end an otherwise magical season for Apopka.
This edition of Blue Darter football will look a lot different, but there will no doubt be a chip on their shoulders after the end of 2016.
And that chip fell on the Daytona Beach Mainland Buccaneers in a pre-season game tonight in Apopka. The Buccaneers are a powerhouse program in Florida high school football, making the playoffs 23-straight seasons and losing only once in the regular season since 2014. However, on this night, it was all Apopka.
Apopka drilled the Buccaneers 26-14 behind three touchdown runs by junior running back Cornelius Williams, and while Williams was the catalyst of the Apopka offense, a swarming Blue Darter defense gave Mainland quarterback Jake Novella fits all evening, forcing five turnovers and spending most of the game in the senior quarterback’s face.
The Blue Darters opened the scoring midway in the first quarter after senior defensive lineman Mychal Austin fell on a Mainland fumble at the Buccaneer 35-yard-line. Three plays later, Williams ran 13 yards for a touchdown. After a missed extra point, Apopka took the early lead 6-0.
Mainland nearly answered back after a penalty-enhanced drive landed the Buccaneers on the Apopka 1-yard-line, but another fumble, this time recovered by senior cornerback Jerome Jackson, ended the drive. On the next play, Williams scored again. This time on an electrifying 84-yard touchdown run. The extra point extended the Apopka lead to 13-0 with 40 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Blue Darters increased their lead early in the second quarter on a 50-yard touchdown pass from running back Jecoryan Davis-Hamilton to senior wide receiver Zion Hill. Davis-Hamilton took a handoff from sophomore quarterback Jackson Darlington, ran toward the sideline, paused and hit a wide-open Hill on the trick play. The extra point was good and Apopka led 20-0.
On the last drive of the first half, Mainland, plagued by five turnovers in the first half, drove to the Apopka two-yard-line before throwing an interception as time ran off the clock.
After stopping Mainland on the first drive of the third quarter, Apopka opened-up its largest lead of the game when Williams broke free and ran for a 36-yard-touchdown, his third of the night. The two-point-conversion was stopped, but Apopka led 26-0 with 6:35 left in the period.
It seemed like a dagger to the Buccaneer’s heart, but the reports of their death were greatly exaggerated.
The Buccaneers were able to answer late in the third quarter on a Nathaniel Braswell one-yard touchdown run. The extra-point was blocked, but the Buccaneers cut the lead to 26-6 with 1:50 remaining in the period. Then in the fourth quarter, Novello threw a touchdown pass, and with a two-point conversion cut the lead to 26-14 with 5:25 left in the game. An onside kick recovered by Mainland gave the Buccaneers a breath of life. Novello was able to drive Mainland to the Apopka 15-yard line, but it stalled when sophomore defensive lineman Micah Riley broke through and sacked Novello. Then on fourth down, the overwhelming Blue Darter linemen blew-up an intended option play by Mainland, and the final Buccaneer rally was thwarted.
Williams finished the game with 185 yards on 12 carries, and one reception for 10 yards. Davis-Hamilton added 75 yards on 17 carries.
The Blue Darters open their regular season next Friday on the road against the Ocoee Knights. Last season Apopka beat Ocoee 62-7. Kickoff is 7PM.