A local high school football team just completed an undefeated season in which most of the games were shutout victories.
The last game was the closest, a one-point win where the margin of victory was a blocked extra point. That capped a three-game winning streak, all on the road.
They finished a perfect season, and most people had no idea they were even playing. And it’s all because of one word: “junior.”
As in, junior varsity football. They don’t get the crowds, the accolades or the press, but the Sunlake Seahawks went 8-0 this season, just one year after completing a 7-1 campaign.
There won’t be any playoffs and there are no district or regional titles to earn. But for the players, coaches and those who followed the team, there’s a lot of pride in what they accomplished.
“It feels great. It’s what we worked hard for, it’s what I drilled into their heads: 8-0 was the goal, and we finally reached that goal,” explained Head Coach Ryan Horan.
But it wasn’t an easy goal to attain. Even though the games weren’t at the top tier of high school sports, the Seahawks certainly felt varsity-level drama this season.
They avenged their only loss last year with a close 7-0 victory against the Pasco Pirates to open their schedule, and they closed it out with a win on the road against the Wiregrass Ranch Bulls, another undefeated team looking to avoid its first loss. A blocked extra point and a go-ahead touchdown later, and Sunlake had finished its season undefeated.
Junior varsity football isn’t usually a big draw. There might be a few fans, but often there’s family, friends and a lot of empty seats. But the last game was different, because both teams wanted a perfect season. For that game there were a lot of fans in the stands and a lot of energy to motivate both teams.
“Believe it or not, you would’ve thought it was a varsity game,” Horan said.
One of those fans was a former player: Justin Hall, a freshman quarterback who played five games with Sunlake’s junior varsity team before leaving the squad. His absence was justified, however — he caught the eye of the varsity team and was called up for the remainder of their season.
Since there are no playoffs, the real payoff for the players is the opportunity to eventually work their way up to the varsity level. Hall accomplished that after a handful of games in his first year, and he credits his experience with junior varsity football with giving him a solid foundation to compete at the next level.
In fact, he was already familiar with a lot of the offensive strategy when he got there.
“You get a couple of new plays, more advanced plays,” Hall said of the transition to varsity. “But it’s basically the same plays in both JV and varsity.”
While he said the varsity game is faster and has players who have found the best position for them on the field (making the competition stronger), Hall felt better prepared to face those challenges as a result of his success with the junior varsity team.
Even though he wasn’t with the team anymore, he still had friends there and attended their remaining games to show support. And when his former team completed their undefeated season, Hall felt a real sense of pride to have contributed to their success.
“I felt really good. I felt happy for them that they could pull off those last two wins, and it was good knowing that I could be part of that 8-0 season,” Hall said.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.