Seahawks get back-to-back wins
By Steve Lee
LAND O’ LAKES — Sunlake has won two games for the first time in its brief history. Another school record fell when the victories came back-to-back.
The Seahawks, who had just one win in two previous seasons, nearly made it three in a row on Oct. 9. A 27-21 overtime loss to Wesley Chapel, however, left the third-year team with a 2-3 record halfway through the season.
“Sunlake came ready to play,” said Wesley Chapel coach John Castelamare, whose team went undefeated in its third year. “They did a good job. This is an experience for them. They’ve never been through that.”
Sunlake, which debuted in 2007 at 0-10 and opened last season by defeating River Ridge for its lone win, has clearly shown signs of a turnaround. It all started with a 35-14 upset of playoff contender Gulf. Then came the largest margin of victory in school history, 47-0 over first-year Anclote.
“We’re much improved from last year,” Sunlake coach Bill Browning said. “If this team works hard, we should be a team to be reckoned with in the future.”
The victory over Gulf was especially rewarding for Sunlake quarterback Jacob Jackson, who in the 2009 playoffs was Gulf’s signal-caller in place of injured starter Madison Burr during a playoff loss to Pasco.
“I loved it,” Jackson, a junior, said of beating the Bucs.
With a shot at the coveted .500 mark, Sunlake took a 14-7 halftime lead on Wesley Chapel. Jamal Jones became the school’s first player to return a kickoff for a touchdown when he ran back the opening kick 84 yards.
Wesley Chapel’s Keegan Turner scored on a quarterback sneak, but the Seahawks countered with a 3-yard scoring run by Rashaud Daniels. Turnovers, along with a touchdown pass from Jackson to Jones that was called back on a penalty, kept Sunlake out of the end zone for the remainder of regulation play.
Jon Mahan’s 26-yard touchdown run for Wesley Chapel, along with a two-point conversion by Tanner, led to overtime.
With each team getting a shot at the end zone from 10 yards out on four plays, Sunlake lost by converting once while the Wildcats scored twice. Wesley Chapel’s Damon Bagwell and Sunlake’s Alex Rodriguez traded touchdown runs in the first overtime.
In the second overtime, Jackson’s pass to Jones on fourth down fell incomplete and the Wildcats won it on a Chris Pierre-Charles scoring run.
“It was hard-fought,” Browning said. “You’ve just got to grow from it. We’ve got to dust ourselves off an come back.”
While the entire team has contributed, Daniels could be the poster child for Sunlake’s resurgence. The sophomore tailback had a breakout game against the Buccaneers with 139 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He added 120 yards and three scores against the Sharks.
Rodriguez has also figured prominently in the offense. The junior running back had a school-record 92-yard touchdown run in the Anclote game.