By Eugenio Torrens
That’s how much time was left when Ocala Vanguard missed a game-winning 44-yard field goal extending Sunlake’s postseason ride into the second round of the Class 6A playoffs with a 22-21 win.
“The only thing I was saying was please God make him miss, please God don’t let this go through the uprights,” said senior quarterback Cameron Stoltz.
The Seahawks (10-1) converted a two-point conversion after an offsides penalty against the Knights (7-4) on the point-after-touchdown attempt to take the one-point lead. Senior Jerome Samuels vaulted over the middle for the game’s final points as Sunlake held on to write a new chapter in its history-making season.
“When they jumped, it was one of those deals I’m either going to be the hero, or I’m going to be the biggest jerk in the world,” said coach Bill Browning, who has been with the Seahawks since their inception in 2007. Browning said his son, Brandon, asked him ‘Did you come here to win or tie?’ after Vanguard committed the penalty.
“So dad listened to son’s advice,” Browning said.
The two-point conversion came after an eight-play, 98-yard drive sparked by another game-changing call.
The Knights had the ball at the Sunlake 1, but were stuffed on fourth and goal to keep it a one-score game.
“Everything was running through my head, all I was thinking was just seek and destroy,” said senior lineman Nate McCoole, who was in on the defensive stop.
Vanguard opened the game intent on running the ball. P.J. Williams, a Florida State University commit, ran 59 yards to put his team up 7-0.
Sunlake went three and out, but Vanguard fumbled the ball on its next series.
The Seahawks took over at the Knights’ 28-yard line. Stoltz lobbed a pass to Jamal Jones in the corner of the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.
The Knights responded emphatically when Jamarius Quary ran the ensuing kickoff back about 14 yards before pitching it to Williams, who took it 61 yards for his second score of the night.
Vanguard had the ball to start the second quarter, but the offense sputtered and the punting team was brought out. The snap was low and the punter had to scramble before trying to get off a kick that was blocked setting up Sunlake at the Knights’ 30.
Stoltz found Eddie Burgos on a 25-yard touchdown strike to tie the game 14-14.
Vanguard kept pounding the Sunlake defense in the second half, scoring on a nine-play drive without attempting a pass to go up 21-14.
Another Seahawks series ended with a punt to give Vanguard the ball with 2:26 left in the third. The Knights ate up five and a half minutes before Sunlake’s defense slammed the door shut on fourth and goal from its own 1.
Sunlake didn’t squander its next chance.
The Seahawks had been unable to generate much offense when starting on their own side of the field, but all that went out the window after they drove methodically 98 yards.
Then Stoltz found a matchup he knew he could exploit — a linebacker on Rashaud Daniels. The result: a 44-yard pass down the sideline. One play later, Stoltz snuck it in himself.
The routine point after brought the game-changing drama when the Knights were flagged for being offsides. And while some may have questioned the two-point call, it didn’t seem like there was a Seahawk that didn’t believe in Browning’s play call.
“My mindset was coach Browning, you a crazy old man,” Burgos said. “You crazy, but I love coach Browning so much, and I trust coach Browning.”
The conversion put Sunlake up, but it didn’t win the game right there. Vanguard got the ball back two more times, including one last stab at winning with 17 seconds left.
The Knights were near midfield, when quarterback Cody Miller found Williams who streaked to the Sunlake 27, setting up a field goal with 7 seconds left that sailed wide left.
“I’m going to enjoy this for the rest of my life,” Daniels said.
The Seahawks travel to Gainesville on Friday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m.
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