Editor’s Note: This is the 18th in a series of 24 articles published by The Apopka Voice in 2017 that were among the most noteworthy. We will post all of them from December 26th and December 31st. Then on Monday, January 1st we will poll our readers and let them decide which is Apopka's biggest story of 2017.
Published November 24th, 2017
The storybook season continues...
The Wekiva Mustangs used its menacing defense and a second-half scoring spree to overwhelm the #1 seeded Winter Park Wildcats 33-6 to win the 8-A Region 1 final and advance to the state semifinals for the first time in the school's history.
The victory put to rest a winning streak Winter Park held over Wekiva that both knocked them out of the playoffs last season, and was their only loss this year.
The entire first half was a defensive struggle with Wekiva leading 2-0, but midway through the third quarter, Mustang quarterback Brandon Williams hit junior wide receiver Terrence Moore on a 65-yard touchdown pass, and after an Oscar Salazar kick, Wekiva had a 9-0 lead with 8:10 left in the period.
Then after a Winter Park punt, senior running back Birthel Bridges ran 37 yards inside the Wildcat 20, and Williams scored from the two-yard line three plays later to break the game open, giving Wekiva a 16-0 lead with 5:43 left in the third quarter.
Winter Park answered on the very next drive when quarterback Cameron LaGree threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Malik Tolbert to close the gap to 16-6. The extra point failed.
On the next Winter Park drive, Wekiva safety Brandon Hill picked off LaGree and took it to the Winter Park 33. Williams ran for 10 yards but the drive stalled. Salazar's 38-yard field goal ended the quarter with Wekiva ahead 19-6.
Then with 7:30 left in the game, Erion Lowe intercepted a LaGree pass and returned it for a touchdown, increasing Wekiva's lead to 26-6.
Bridges exorcised all of the demons from this rivalry with a game-clinching 29-yard touchdown run, giving Wekiva an insurmountable 33-6 lead with only 2:28 remaining in the game.
The win gives the Mustangs a 12-1 record and puts them only two wins away from a state championship. Next Friday they face the Dr. Phillips Panthers in the state semifinals at the Baptiste Orthodontics Stadium on the campus of Wekiva High School. The Mustangs defeated Dr. Phillips 15-0 earlier this season. The Panthers defeated Sarasota Riverview 28-19 in the Region 2 final to advance.
The Dr. Phillips Panthers used two big offensive plays in the first half, four interceptions in the second half, and a robust defense throughout to shut down the Wekiva Mustangs 28-7 and advance to the state finals for the second straight season.
The Panthers shocked the capacity Wekiva crowd on the first play from scrimmage when sophomore running back Brandon Fields ran through the Wekiva defensive line and raced for a 73-yard-touchdown. After senior placekicker Sterling Stockwell's successful extra point, Dr. Phillips led 7-0 after only 20 seconds into the game.The loss ends the Mustangs playoff run, a 10-game winning streak, and its record-breaking season. Wekiva finished 2017 with a 12-2 record, which was Wekiva's best in the school's history.
Then with 2:29 left in the second quarter, lightning struck again when Panther quarterback BeSean McCray took a quarterback sweep through two Wekiva defenders, followed a block, and blew past the Mustang defense 72 yards for a touchdown that gave the Panthers a surprising 14-0 lead at halftime.
Despite five trips into Panther territory, the Mustangs came away with no points in the first half. But in the second half, things got significantly worse.
Pressing to rally from a 14-point deficit, senior quarterback Brandon Williams threw three interceptions in the first six minutes, one of which Panther defensive back Brian Bell-Anderson took 40 yards for a touchdown and gave the Panthers a 28-0 lead.
Wekiva finally answered just before the end of the third quarter when Mustang senior Cayvian Holmes took a jet-sweep handoff from Williams and went 10 yards for Wekiva's only score. After kicker Oscar Salazar's kick, Wekiva trailed 28-7 with 2:28 left in the period.
It was all the offense the Mustangs could muster against the impressive Panther defense.
The loss ends the Mustangs playoff run, a 10-game winning streak, and its record-breaking season. Wekiva finished 2017 with a 12-2 record, their best in school history. They also won their first District 8A-4 title, beat Apopka and Dr. Phillips during the regular season - all firsts for Wekiva.
Editor's Note: Feature photo (above the article) from AGO Action Photos.
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