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8A: Apopka 20 v Columbus 21 FINAL

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Looks like two equally matched teams slugging it out so far.

Fumble by Apopka (could have gone either way) at the Explorer one made it interesting, but a world record horrible punt by Columbus (2 yd punt) gave it right back to the Darters. Columbus definitely can move the ball against this Apopka defense through the air for shorter gains, they just killing themselves with penalties. And running game has been minimal.

Doobie Henderson (4* CCHS receiver) looks a little shaky with that left hip injury, which means more pressure on Parrish offensively - and he hasn't found much success against this stout front line of Apopka. Hopefully just a little stinger because the Explorers will need him down the stretch. Columbus QB Moody has been quite accurate but showing some frustration. Missed PAT by Apopka may come back to haunt them. No way they hold Parrish in check the whole game. 

Columbus receives second half. Their kicker generally boots it into the endzone every time, negating potential big returns by #1 - that kid is legit. If Columbus can move the ball as they have without some stupid penalties on that opening drive, then their D just needs one good stop to swing morale. They are not playing with that intensity I saw last few games. I imagine Coach Dunn and his staff are making the adjustments and reminding them of what they are capable of.

Should be an exciting finish either way!

Go Explorers!

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4 minutes ago, 181pl said:

great comeback. I never root for Miami schools, or for private schools. But, Columbus deserves this. They've been so many times and they've been left at the altar. I'm glad for the program and its alumni.

Welp we didn’t ask you to lmao.. but your right they finally got one..

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Well, an improbable season ended in disappointment last night, as Apopka was done in by: 1. Friday 13 (not really); 2. An average kicking game; 3. A gutsy decision by Columbus to go for two instead of taking the PAT and overtime. 

While it hurts to lose a game when your opponent's only lead comes with 8.2 seconds left on the clock, putting things into perspective, Apopka had a great season. After losing its best offensive weapon (Davis-Hamilton) early in the 2018 season, the Darter's looked forward to his return for his senior season. But it was not to be as he aggravated his injury in a non-football related accident in the spring (it is really a pity as this kid had a fine college career and perhaps pro, ahead of him). Going into the spring game, the offense was really bad without him, and in four quarters of football the team managed only 2 points on a safety. 

With the above as the backdrop, I was not expecting much from Apopka this year. And, for the first seven games of the regular season, despite the defense playing stellar football, it seemed likely that Apopka was headed for a first or second round exit in the playoffs as more injuries to offensive players (both skill and linemen) plagued the team. Well, in the second to last game of the regular season against Lake Mary for the district title, a turnaround could be sensed as Apopka won what was expected to be a tight game easily. 

The turnaround was due to two main factors: 1. Some of the injured players returning to health and the team; 2. Some shifts by the coaching staff moving guys from defense to offensive and finding some diamonds in the rough on the bench. 

In the end it was not enough for a fourth state title. Still, in perspective, it was a good season for the Darters. 

Congrats to Columbus on pulling out the win. The two teams were fairly evenly matched, but very different in their strengths and weakness. I feel there will be other Columbus/Apopka finals in the future and I look forward to the chance for redemption. 

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I have to say - I doubted this team for much of the season.

There was a lot of pre-season hype (top 50 ranking) returning key players from the State runner-up finish last year. We were looking forward to the return of one of our top ATH's and team motivators in Courtney Holmes as well after missing him from knee surgery the entire previous season. Over the summer he got shot and it looked as if he wouldn't play a down.

Losing Chris Merritt as head coach meant there would be a learning curve for the boys, particularly in the offensive schemes. Our QB Moody had a hard time adjusting to the new collegiate style playbook - even alternating back and forth with the #2 QB a sophomore transfer. Losing over half the O-Line to graduation didn't help the scrambling QB either. Also, a bunch of coaches who had stepped down under Merritt, stepped back in under Dunn (Dunn's former crew from back in the day), and the boys had to adjust to that (new DB coach, new RB coach, etc) and the culture that Dunn wanted instilled.

It came down to Coach Dunn benching a bunch of starters including the QB in the first half of the Dillard game. After that, you can sense the team maturing and falling in line with the program's new culture. Dunn also scaled down the playbook from the earlier part of the season as well. Offensive confidence improved greatly after that.

The playoff run following that Dillard loss was where the team started coming together - We had beaten Miami High and CG during the regular season, so I wasn't surprised there and these were off-seasons for both of those programs. I had my doubts entering into the Western game, but starting from the first series, I became a believer. The kids played with heart. Holmes in particular has stepped up in his leadership role and was now closer to 100% physically. Parrish and the team had dedicated the season to their classmate Ari Arteaga who had died the year before and now focused their emotion on "Finishing the Job, for Ari"

The emotion was real and obvious after the DB win. With a strong alumni backing, 4 years of being the bridesmaid instead of the bride leading up to it, and revenge from 2014 on the mind, the Explorers felt this was their time. They sent a huge contingent of fans up to Daytona with the expectation of a championship. And while I once again doubted - particularly in the third quarter after Quinn's fumble on the kickoff - I knew this team wouldn't quit. There was too much emotion there. They didn't lay down, the coaches made the adjustments to get McSween the ball in the air and allow Moody to scramble. They tried to get Parrish open in the flats and eventually it worked. Stuck Price right in the middle to jam up the box a bit more. And a gutsy call going for 2, especially given what happened last year o the last play of the game. It was almost fate.

Hats off to the (mostly new) coaching staff, the new president of the school, the motivator Holmes, and the team that just would not quit. I hope that the Arteaga family find some comfort in this championship season dedicated to their son. It was truly  the most exciting finish to a state final I have ever seen, for more than one reason.

Congrats on Apopka's incredible season and hard-fought game.

I know it hurts.

We know it better than most.




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