GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The matchup had been anticipated since it went on the schedule for Week 1.
For the two-longtime district rivals in Gainesville and Vanguard, it was the first meeting in quite a while that the game would not have an impact on the district race with the visiting Knights now in Class 5A while host Gainesville remained in Class 6A after the FHSAA reclassification during the offseason.
As such, the game did not disappoint as season opener Thursday night with many highlights to be had and scoring to be found by both teams. However, it appeared at one point that Vanguard was going to pull away on Gainesville.
However, the Hurricanes had different plans, making sure the game never got fully how of hand, instead of keeping the Knights on their toes despite, while at the same time seeing the visitor commit mistakes and penalties of their own. But at the same time, Gainesville had their own share of costly mistakes and penalties.
At the end though, the final score of 33-15 in favor of Vanguard (1-0) was not indicative of just how competitive the game really was.
Gainesville (0-1) started the game with the ball first quickly going three-and-out, but a fumble by Dewayne McBride at midfield the Knights swung the game quickly to the Hurricanes’ favor as it took only two plays when Jacob Hanson found Rod Williams on a 47-yard slant pass to take a 7-0 lead on Vanguard with 9:08 left in the first quarter.
On Vanguard’s next possession it didn’t take long for the Knights to march down the field thanks to a decent return on the kickoff when Tyrell Randall scampered into the endzone on a 2-yard run to cut Gainesville’s lead to 7-6 with 7:00 left in the first quarter after the point after try was blocked by the Hurricanes.
However, the momentum found by Gainesville would be short-lived after the touchdown and the blocked extra point.
Later on in the first quarter Desmond Dailey intercepted a Gainesville pass at midfield, but the Knights didn’t get anything going, but later after forcing the Hurricanes to punt, the Knights found their second score of the game on 14-yard run by McBride to take a 14-7 lead as the first quarter came to a close.
In the second quarter, the Knights started to pour it on as the Knights’ new starting quarterback Steve Curry completed touchdown passes of 29 yards and 36 yards to Trevonte Rucker and Leonard Manuel to build the Knights’ lead to 27-7 with a chance to run away within the second half.
Gainesville though was not ready to give up on the game as they came out in the second half ready to put pressure on Vanguard.
Sure, enough that pressure paid off as they forced Vanguard to punt on their first possession of the half which saw the snap go high and land in the endzone giving the Hurricanes a safety with 10:59 in the third quarter, making the score 27-9.
It wouldn’t be later on in the third quarter when Nay’Ron Jenkins would find the endzone, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run to cut Vanguard’s lead to 27-15.
When it looked like Vanguard was going to potentially close the door fully on the game with another Desmond Dailey interception in the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes forced the Knights into another punting situation. But on the snap, the ball went high again on the Knights, giving Gainesville the ball in great field position at the Vanguard 19.
With a chance to pull closer to the Knights, the Hurricanes ended up going backward and not getting anything with the great field position after a scuffle on the field that saw Jenkins get ejected for an unsportsmanlike penalty as a result of throwing a punch.
The Knights closed out the game with a late score by McBride from 2-yards out to make the score 33-15.
“It was one of those things where we are working to get better offensively. I think we just struggled offensively. Defense, we’re playing well right now. We gave up one big drive. I thought we more fatigued than anything,” Vanguard Head Coach Edwin Farmer had to say about his Knights after the win.
In Week 2 Vanguard will make the return trip to Citizens Field on Friday night to take on Buchholz (1-0) while Gainesville will travel up SR 121 to Macclenny to take on Baker County (0-1).