By Eugenio Torrens
Sunlake’s historic football season came to a screeching halt at the hands of Gainesville senior Chris Bivins.
Bivins intercepted Seahawks (10-2) quarterback Cameron Stoltz to dash Sunlake’s comeback bid and chances of making it to the Class 6A regional finals against Armwood with a 21-14 road loss.
“It’s gonna hurt tonight,” Sunlake coach Bill Browning said. “It should, they worked extremely hard and we had an opportunity to win tonight.”
The Seahawks (10-2) were flying high having made it to the playoffs for the first time in the school’s five-year history and nabbing a playoff win on the road 22-21 at Ocala Vanguard the previous week.
But against Gainesville (10-2), four turnovers grounded Sunlake and the offense wasn’t able to generate much rhythm in a game dominated by both defenses.
“It feels good to be part of the first playoff team and the first team to win a playoff game, but it does stink to go out this way,” said senior linebacker Nick Morrison.
Senior running back Rashaud Daniels added, “It was special to be able to make history with my team.”
The Hurricanes got on the board first when Cordero Dixon scooped up a fumbled Seahawks pitch and returned it 49 yards.
Sunlake’s defense responded on Gainesville’s next drive. The Hurricanes were pinned back on their own 7-yard line, when Jerome Samuels stuck his hand up to deflect a Mark Cato pass. The ball landed in Paul Scott’s hands and he scampered to the end zone.
Late in the second quarter, Stoltz threw his first interception to Dixon, who scored his second touchdown of the night with a 51-yard return.
The offensively stagnant Seahawks came out in the third quarter and put together their best drive of the game — a 68-yard march capped off when Stoltz’s pass was tipped by Gainesville’s Tashon Whitehurst and into the alert arms of Eddie Burgos for the score.
Because Connor Spencer’s extra point attempt was blocked earlier, the Seahawks were forced to go for the two-point conversion to tie the game. Stoltz found Morrison to knot the game up at 14.
The Seahawks were backed up on their next series, a three and out, and the ensuing punt gave the Hurricanes great field position at the Sunlake 27. Cato found Bivins for an 8-yard touchdown that turned out to be the game clincher.