By Kyle LoJacono
The Freedom football team picked up its first victory of the season, winning 20-14 at Brandon Sept. 14.
The Patriots (1-2) were coming off 57-7 and 14-9 losses against Durant and Plant City, respectively, but first-year Freedom coach Todd Donohoe said things have been improving at all levels.
“I feel like the program is starting to come together,” Donohoe said. “The junior varsity team got a win the day before and we came back and won, so it was good to see back-to-back wins for the program.”
Trailing 14-6, sophomore quarterback Taylor King engineered the game-tying drive deep in the fourth quarter. He found senior wide receiver Alunte Fleshman on a 12-yard fade, and the duo hooked up again on the two-point conversion with about two minutes remaining.
“Alunte stepped up,” Donohoe said. “He actually dropped a touchdown and we went right back to him, and then he caught the touchdown and the two-point play.”
The Patriots defense stopped Brandon on the home team’s first possession of overtime. Sophomore defensive back Aaron Cox, who also recorded an interception in the contest, recovered a fumble on third down to set up Freedom’s walk-off win.
King ran for seven yards on first down followed by a two-yard gain by running back Anthony Hendry. King called his own number on third down and plowed up the middle to gain the final yard that gave his Patriots the victory.
“The kids needed a morale booster,” Donohoe said. “We felt like we should have won the week before, so it was good to persevere.”
Senior defensive back Nate Godwin opened the scoring by returning a punt 80 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Donohoe said senior linebacker Devan Mays threw the key block to spring Godwin.
“He got hit, the shell of the inside of his helmet comes off and he gets up after being on the ground and makes the key block,” Donohoe said. “It was a team effort on the score there. … It’s good to see special teams making some plays. We also had a fumble recovery and special teams played a bit better.”
Donohoe said things are improving as the first district contest approaches.
“The kids are buying into all the stuff we’re doing,” Donohoe said. “My staff has done a tremendous job making adjustments, some personnel changes and things like that. We’re mentally getting a little more focused; we’re not having the personal fouls and things that were hurting us in the past. It’s starting to come together a little bit more, and hopefully it continues.”
Freedom opens Class 7A-District 7 play at home against Steinbrenner Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m.