Warriors spoil Apopka Homecoming and #1 ranking
Talk about a Friday the 13th curse.
In a wild, rain soaked game that saw five lead changes in the second half, the West Orange Warriors stunned the Apopka Blue Darters 31-27. The loss dropped Apopka to 7-2 on the season and 1-1 in District 8A-4. West Orange squared its record at 4-4 on the year, and 1-1 in district play.
It was a shocking result to a large homecoming crowd, and a likely end to Apopka’s #1 ranking in the Associated Press 8A state poll.
The Blue Darters opened the game with a nine play drive that went 80 yards in just 3 minutes and 27 seconds. Junior running back Cornelius Williams scored on a 9-yard touchdown run, and after a Titus Vandiver extra point, Apopka led 7-0.
The Warriors responded quickly when quarterback Cyr Brendan hit wide receiver Darrell Harding on a 65-yard touchdown strike. After an Andrew Brickweg extra point, the game was tied 7-7.
The Blue Darters retook the lead on another long drive of seven plays and 73 yards. Quarterback Jackson Darlington scored on a 7-yard run between the tackles, but Vandiver’s kick failed, which gave Apopka a 13-7 lead as the quarter ended.
West Orange cut the lead to 13-10 midway through the second quarter on a 28-yard field goal by Brickweg, and then stunned the homecoming crowd with a 99-yard drive with less than a minute left in the half, featuring a screen pass from Benden that Harding caught, broke a tackle and raced 85 yards to the Apopka 2-yard line. With 35 seconds remaining, running back Nemea Hall went up the middle and scored, and with the extra point West Orange took the halftime lead 17-13.
But as wild a finish as the first half saw, the second half was even more bizarre.
West Orange took the kickoff and went nowhere, but a roughing the kicker on Apopka gave them new life and a new set of downs. That drive also stalled, but their punt hit a Blue Darter, and the Warriors recovered on the Apopka 7-yard-line. The Blue Darters mounted a strong defense, ultimately holding the Warriors to a field goal attempt, which Apopka blocked and recovered at their own 15-yard-line.
Six plays later sophomore running back Akeem Brown raced 60 yards for a go-ahead touchdown that gave Apopka a 20-17 lead after the successful kick by Vandiver.
But once again West Orange answered rapidly.
Harding received the Vandiver kickoff and outraced the entire Blue Darter team to give the Warriors the lead right back. The Brickweg kick made it 24-20.
On the very next play, Brown gave the Blue Darters the lead back in epic fashion with another long run (85 yards) for a touchdown, which gave Apopka a 27-24 lead which held through the end of the third quarter.
Midway through the fourth quarter, West Orange went 98 yards, featuring two long runs by Hall, and then Benden hit junior wide receiver Keyshawn Goins in the end zone from seven yards out to give the Warriors the lead 31-27 after the extra point. With 7:41 remaining in the game, the Blue Darters found themselves behind again.
The Blue Darters final drive went 50 yards in four minutes, but ended when Darlington hit tight end Jalen Carter on a fourtrh down conversion, but Carter fumbled the ball just five yards from the end zone.
The surprising loss sets up a must win for the Blue Darters on October 27th against their crosstown rival the Wekiva Mustangs. Wekiva is currently 6-1, 2-0 in the district, and ranked #10 in the same poll Apopka is ranked #1. The game is at Roger Williams Field (at Apopka High School). Kickoff is at 7 PM.