After 10 years, a rivalry is born. And after tonight's classic battle, it’s clear there are two great high school football teams in Apopka.
In a wild game that saw six (!) lead changes and two game-tying scores, the Apopka Blue Darters (7-0, 2-0) rallied past the Wekiva Mustangs (4-3, 1-1) 38-31 on Deshawn Massey’s 28-yard statue-of-liberty run with 1:56 left in the game.
The gritty Mustangs drove 48 yards to the Apopka 40-yard line on its last drive before Apopka freshman cornerback Anthony Fieldings intercepted a pass near the end zone to secure the Blue Darter win.
It was the 10th straight victory for Apopka in The Mayor's Cup game, but it was by far the closest.
The win nearly guarantees Apopka will qualify for the playoffs and is one win away from winning the Class 8A-District 4 championship. Wekiva can qualify for the playoffs also with a win over West Orange in its final district game. If that scenario takes place, these two teams may well see each other again in a second round playoff matchup.
But tonight was a game of big plays, rallies and a never-say-die attitude by both teams. Tonight was the best game in the Apopka-Wekiva series.
After the Blue Darters opening drive stalled, Wekiva mixed five passes with four runs and went 75 yards on 9 plays, but it ended abruptly when senior quarterback Trey McGee fumbled inside the Apopka five yard line.
Apopka’s second drive sputtered again, giving the Mustangs the ball on their own 45-yard-line. Wekiva completed a 15-yard pass and took advantage of a Blue Darter 15-yard penalty before junior Wekiva kicker Oscar Salazar hit a 30-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
Penalties thwarted Apopka’s early progress on its next possession, until sophomore running back Cornelius Williams went around right end and broke free for a 70-yard touchdown. Senior kicker Logan Manniear’s extra point gave the Blue Darers a 7-3 lead.
On the next drive Demetri Burch, the senior quarterback for the Blue Darters, hit freshman wideout Jackson Darlington for 15 yards. Two plays later, Burch lofted a pass between two Wekiva defenders to hit senior wide receiver Damaris August on a 35-yard touchdown pass. Mainear’s kick made it a 14-3 Blue Darter lead.
It looked as though the trajectory of the game was heading towards many blowouts of the past, but Wekiva changed its future before the half.
The Mustangs patiently mixed 5 passes with four runs and scored on a 7-yard touchdown pass from McGee to senior wide receiver Wesley Touze. The extra point by Salazar cut the lead to 14-10 at the end of the first half.
With eight minutes left in the third quarter, Wekiva blocked a Minniear punt and recovered the ball at the Apopka 20-yard line. Senior running back Jaylon Fair scored on the very next play and the Mustangs retook the lead 17-14 after Salazar’s extra point.
But it didn’t take long for Apopka to regain the lead.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Burch ran 54 yards for a touchdown, and the extra point gave Apopka the lead 21-17.
But with 2:44 left in the third quarter, Fair ran 30 yards for his second touchdown of the night. Wekiva regained the lead 24-21.
Before the third quarter ended, Apopka tied the game 24-24 on a Maniear 24-yard field goal.
Both teams traded punts after drives that did not develop, but with 4:17 remaining in the game, McGee hit Touze for his second touchdown pass and catch to give the Mustangs a 31-24 lead.
Then Apopka stunned the Wekiva crowd only two plays later when August caught a deflected pass from Burch and ran 62 yards to the Wekiva one-yard line. On the next play Deshawn Massey plowed up the middle for the tying score after the extra point.
It was 31-31 with 3:58 remaining in the game and plenty of drama to come.
Wekiva got the ball back on its own six-yard line after a botched kickoff return and moved the ball to the 20-yard line, but a sack by linebacker Kamron Williams ended the drive. A poor punt by the Mustangs gave Apopka the ball on the Wekiva 30-yard line with 1:58 remaining in the game.
The statue of liberty is a trick play that a quarterback stands tall in the pocket as if he's about to pass, then hands the ball off behind his back. It’s a play that Apopka has run occasionally this season, but Lady Liberty never looked better than when Burch handed off to Massey who ran past everyone 28 yards for the final go-ahead touchdown.
Apopka 38, Wekiva 31.
Perhaps a rivalry began tonight after nine years of one-sided results. And perhaps we will see the rematch later this season in a playoff game.