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Class 4M State Championship

Blue Darters lose a heartbreaker

Apopka falls to Miami Columbus 16-13 in overtime


By now, most of you probably know the Apopka Blue Darters ended their season with a heartbreaking 16-13 overtime loss to the Miami Columbus Explorers in the Class 4M State Championship game Saturday night at the DRV PNK Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale.

Apopka had its chances but had a field goal attempt blocked as time expired in regulation with a 10-10 score, which sent the game into overtime, where the Blue Darters kicked a field goal but surrendered a game-winning touchdown to the Explorers.

This was the second straight loss in the state championship and the third loss in the finals in the last four years.

Apopka took the early lead on its very first drive with a 22-yard field goal from senior placekicker Hayden Koscicki. But Columbus answered two minutes later on a 50-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alberto Mendoza to wide receiver Jose Leon, giving the Explorers a 7-3 lead. Columbus added a field goal as time expired in the second quarter to take a 10-3 halftime lead.

After an hour delay because of lightning and a scoreless third quarter, it was the Blue Darters who struck next when freshman quarterback Tyson Davison ran for a 46-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 10-10.

Davison rushed for 142 yards on 13 carries, senior Zeldrick Thomas rushed for 90 yards on 21 carries, and the Blue Darters ran for 320 yards as a team. They also held the Explorers to 202 total yards. The Blue Darters outplayed the Explorers in most measurements, but three lost fumbles and two blocked kicks ultimately cost them the game.

It would be easy to paint this team as one that can't win the big game and can't close the deal. But let me give you a little perspective before you go in that skeptical direction.

From 1978-81, I went to St. Petersburg High School, where our Green Devil football team compiled records of 3-7, 4-6, 6-4, and 3-7. We never came close to making the postseason during my time there. In 1984, St. Pete High went 13-0 before losing to Pensacola Escambia and Emmitt Smith 47-14 in the state championship. It's been 28 years, and they have never been back.

I tell you this blast from my past to make a point - there are far more St. Petersburg High stories in Florida than there are Apopka High stories. Enjoy this perennial powerhouse of a high school football team and understand in playoff football, you are competing against the best teams in the state one game after another. To amass a 15-4 record and make three trips to the state finals in four years is an astounding achievement. 

Oh, and the Blue Darters did win three titles of their own in the last 20 years.

Apopka finishes its season at 11-4.

Although not state champions, the Blue Darters are 43-13 since 2019 and 15-4 in the postseason. After starting the season 2-2, the Blue Darters won 9 of its last 11, games, including four playoff victories.

Yes it was a tough loss, but consider the Blue Darters performance over the last four years, and they may be the best team in the state over that time span.

Congratulations, Blue Darters, on another incredible season!

Apopka Blue Darters, Miami Columbus Explorers, Class 4M State Championship, High School Football


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  • Rooney

    This team seemed to find a way to win after a rough start. The community should be proud of the players and coaches for a great year.

    Monday, December 19, 2022 Report this