Football hopeful for successful season


Photo by Jesse Burton

Ben Clyatt, Sports Editor

Starting with a 1-2 record would be enough for some football coaches to hit the panic button, but not head coach Phil Ziglar.

“It’s easy to get down on a team when they’re not undefeated, and then you lose a close game like we did to Lake Minneola,” Ziglar said. “Have we learned a lot from our losses? Undoubtedly. Now, can we get back on track and do what we’ve got to do? I have no doubt we can.”

The team was able to get back on track after the losses to Lake Minneola and Oviedo, blowing out Ocala West Port 48-14 on Sept. 25 in the first home game of the season. After posting 34 points in the first quarter, the team went into halftime with a 48-0 lead, but did not score in the second half and came away with a 48-14 win.

The game followed the trend of strong first half play. Throughout the season, the team has outscored their opponents 90-21 in the first half, but in the second half, they have been outscored 66-27. Even without the West Port game, the team has still scored 42 first half points, twice as much as their opponent.

This was not an issue early, as the team started the preseason with a 42-13 win at Freedom High School on Aug. 21, and  then went on to win their first game of the regular season as well, beating Winter Springs 27-17 on Sept. 4. The win, however, came at a price. Quarterback Zach King suffered a knee injury late in the game and was unable to return.

After a 1-0 start, the team played at Oviedo in the Hometown Showdown game, but lost, 28-21.

“We had all the confidence in the world [going into the Oviedo game], and we knew that we could win if we worked together,” running back Gabe Diaz said.

The team posted an early 7-0 lead off a rushing touchdown by Diaz early in the first quarter. After another touchdown at the end of the first quarter and a scoreless second quarter, the team went into the half up 14-0.

By the end of the third quarter, the game was tied at 14-14. The fourth quarter saw the most action, with another touchdown by Diaz putting the team up 21-14, but two more Oviedo touchdowns led Oviedo to a 28-21 win.

With King already out, the team took another blow to their roster during the Oviedo game, losing running back Curtis Duren in the first half to a high ankle sprain.

“It was a normal handoff to me. Then an Oviedo player hit me,” Duren said. “Right when I felt the pop, I knew I was hurt.”

The team went on to lose to Lake Minneola, 28-21, in a back-and-forth game on Sept. 18. Down 21-13 with 11 minutes left, Lake Minneola scored two touchdowns and a two point conversion to steal the win.

Despite the setbacks, the team is confident they can still have a successful season.

“[The team] feels they can pull this season off, and I do too. We’re going to be fine. I’m not worried a bit about it,” Ziglar said. “The great thing I liked about Apopka, who won the state [championship] last year: they lost four of their first five games. And then they won the state championship. Just keep that in mind.”