Varsity Preps

Kosnitzky’s Korner: With Different Histories, Apopka Meets South Dade in the 8A Final

(Photo Source: Orlando Sentinel)

Twitter Follow: @akosnitzky

It was a cool December night one year ago.  Everyone at the Florida Citrus Bowl was on the edge of their seats.  The Apopka Blue Darters and the Weston Cypress Bay Lightning were battling in the 8A Finals. Cypress Bay had scored 50 points but it was not enough. Apopka had a 53-50 lead but the school from Weston was driving down the field near the red zone in the final moments of the game.  

 

In a game marred by penalties which overwhelmed officials, Lightning Quarterback, Jaranta Lewis would attempt a throw to his Running Back, Matt Dayes in the end zone. Apopka defender, J.J. Simmons would deflect the pass and Safety, Rakeem Smith would make the interception off of his own shoe. The scoring drive ended. On the next two plays, Apopka Quarterback, Zach Darlington would kneel down with the ball and the game was over.

 

The players and the staff from the winning team would soon the storm the field with excitement. Apopka Head Coach, Rick Darlington, with his arm around his son, Quarterback, Zach Darlington, graciously took questions.  On this evening, no one asked Coach Darlington about the 2013 season but experts then and now are not surprised that this Orlando team will challenge again in the 8A Title game on Saturday, December 14 at the Florida Citrus Bowl at 7:07 p.m.

 

This season, Apopka (13-1) has rode through an interesting path. Zack Darlington suffered a concussion during the team’s only loss which was the opening game of the season and he did not play again this year. Hence, through the leadership of Quarterback, Chandler Cox, the Blue Darters have moved to a more run-oriented offense. Cox has amassed nearly 1,100 yards on the ground and 1,100 yards through the air which includes 9 touchdowns.

 

However, the team’s offense revolves around Running Back, Robert Thomas who ran for 2,300 yards and 31 touchdowns. Simmons is also a huge factor in the offense with 1,150 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. On the defensive side, the leading tacklers are Billy Caughell, Rakeem Smith, Shyeem Covington, Roddre Hardwick, Anthony Ellis and Eric Jackson, who have neutralized opposing teams on a weekly basis.

 

Apopka’s opponent, the South Dade Bucs (13-1) will participate in their first state final.  The team from greater Miami has stayed below the radar but has won their games with a balanced attack, which uses a mobile quarterback and what some refer to as explosive receivers.  Quarterback, Khalil Render, more recently, has increased his productivity as a runner and the team’s second leading rusher with nearly 600 yards rushing. However, his 2,500 yards passing and 36 touchdowns has fueled the school’s 13 wins, even during inclement weather.  

 

Receivers C.J. Worton is the leading receiver on the team with nearly 900 yards and 12 touchdowns. Worton’s success revolves with his many yards gained after catch. In addition, as a punt returner, he always gives the Bucs great field position. Tyre’ Brady, Nathaniel Terry, Tarviant Williams and Khevani Francois will be seen as primary receivers this week as well.  Johnnie Hankins has rushed for 1,100 yards this season but he will also be used as a receiver in the red zone. Cayman Battle, Tyree Horton, Doyle Grimes and Mario Mezier support the defense.

 

As a 15 point favorite, Apopka enters this game with immediate experience and the comforts of home.   Most of their starters played in the 2012 Final under extreme pressure.  While the Blue Darters, lost their team leader in game one, they have managed to amass a 13-0 record since then and will try to use their size to bully the South Dade defense on every play.  Their 8,500 fans in attendance will help give the Orlando team an extra edge.   South Dade, on the other hand, provides more dimensions than any opponent Apopka has seen all season and their team speed on both sides of the ball will factor on a dry field.  Unlike the Blue Darters, the Bucs have waited over 50 years for this moment and will play as if they will never return again.  That mentality can be very dangerous for any opponent.   

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