APOPKA MISSION: STOP WELLS
By BILL BUCHALTER and SENTINEL STAFF WRITER
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL |
NOV 18, 2004 AT 12:00 AM
It's a classic case of team defense vs. Mr. Offense.
Apopka's undersized but super-quick defenders face the challenge of their high-school football careers Friday: Slow down Sandalwood running back Maurice Wells.
Last week, the 185-pound Wells punished Seminole's smash-mouth, solid defense for 245 yards and three touchdowns.
The question is, can he repeat that kind of performance against a defense that last week held Boone to a minus-9 yards of offense?
"Our entire defense played well against Boone," Apopka Coach Ty Ensor said. "Our three linebackers, the defensive line. We got a lot of pressure on the quarterback. It was a total team effort."
Ensor says to stop Wells, his Darters must play even better.
Play better than holding a district champion team to a minus-22 rushing yards in 24 attempts?
"He's a good back," Ensor deadpanned. "Obviously, he rushed for more than 3,000 yards last year. He's got around 2,000 this year. Hopefully we can ding him up and take him out of his game. We're going to hit him. Our guys will hit."
But Ensor is a realist. He knows his team must continue to play that kind of defense with that kind of intensity as the playoffs continue.
"We're getting better as a team, but we still have a long way to go," the coach said.
So how does Apopka slow down a back of Wells' credentials? He is Florida's top-rated runner and one of the nation's most coveted recruits.
"We have to be sound, technique-wise," Ensor said. "We must take away the gaps and make him have to break tackles. If he gets a seam, he will take it. And once he gets out there, on film, I've never seen anyone catch him."
Sandalwood (8-2) at Apopka (8-1) is one of two playoff games scheduled for Orange County schools. Jacksonville Mandarin (6-5) visits Edgewater (9-1) in the other.
Edgewater eliminated Sandalwood and Wells last year in round three of the playoffs. A gimpy Wells only played the first half as Coach Adam Geis chose not to take a chance of aggravating a leg injury.
He missed several games at midseason with an injury, including the loss to Mandarin for the district title. Wells has become a major challenge for linebackers Kadu Swift, Marvin Peoples and Quentin Taylor, perhaps Central Florida's deepest talent at the position.
And defensive back Eric Sledge was chosen as the Sentinel's Orange County boys athlete of the week after returning an interception for a touchdown against Boone.
"We've got the same game plan we've had all year," Sledge said about Sandalwood. "We're a team and it's a team thing on defense. We have to focus and be ready to play and stop the run," he said.
That means stop Wells.
I believe this was Badbird's greatest moment. Sandalwood, with Maurice Wells, Army All American, came into town and got run into the ground by the Blue Darters! They did score on an 80 yard bomb, but otherwise were dominated.