The Vanguard Knights had a long bus trip from Ocala to Pasco County to face the Sunlake Seahawks. And they weren’t going to leave without an upset in the first round of the Class 6A high school playoffs.
Darryn Lake fell on the ball on the Knights’ own 37-yard-line following the kickoff, giving Vanguard great field position to start the game. But just eight seconds later, senior cornerback Mosi Davis would change everything.
In the very first snap of the 2014 playoffs between Sunlake and Vanguard, Knights quarterback N’Kosi Perry immediately tested the Seahawks’ defense with a long pass downfield. Davis, however, read the pass the entire way, and was there on his own 28-yard line to intercept the ball and set the tone for a 24-6 first round Sunlake win on Friday.
Sunlake (9-2) dominated the ground with 280 yards and three touchdowns. The Knights, on the other hand, were powerful in the air. Perry recovered quickly from his first-pass interception to complete 17-of-29 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. Perry’s defense, however, limited Sunlake to just a Chris Wilkinson field goal early in the first quarter off two interceptions.
“We’ll enjoy this one, but we better not be satisfied,” Sunlake head coach Bill Browning said after the game. “Everyone in the playoffs is good.”
After Davis’ game-starting interception, the Seahawks took 12 plays to reach Vanguard’s 1-yard line. However, senior running back Nathan Johnson just couldn’t cross the end zone, forcing the Seahawks to settle on an 18-yard field goal from senior Chris Wilkinson to give Sunlake an early 3-0 lead.
Both teams would trade three-and-outs right after that, with Perry breaking that cycle late in the first by moving to his passing game. He converted a third-and-20 with just 23 seconds left with a 50-yard pass to Lake. And after running 5 more yards himself, Perry found Lake one more time 14 yards away, this time in the end zone, to give Vanguard a 6-3 lead to start the second.
Knowing they may not get too many more chances to score, Vanguard head coach Edwin Farmer opted for a fake point-after kick, but could only watch as Rashard Laiz was stopped just inches from the goal-line, preventing a two-point conversion.
The Knights never really had a chance after that. Sunlake consistently moved the ball and burned clock, staying on the ground as much as possible. They added touchdowns along the way as well, including a 46-yard mad dash by Davis that put the Seahawks up 10-6 less than a minute after Vanguard took the lead.
Naejaun Jackson tacked on two touchdowns of his own, the first on a 7-yard scamper late in the first, and the second a 6-yard end zone run in the third.
Johnson led the rushing attack with 102 yards, while quarterback Dayton Feiden added 64 yards of his own. Feiden spent very little time in the air, finishing 4-of-6 for 63 yards with no touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Lake led all Knights receivers with 108 yards and a touchdown, while Justin Watkins picked up 38 yards on three catches. The Seahawks’ defense, however, sacked Perry five times in the game, costing Vanguard 22 yards.
Sunlake now heads on the road this week to face Gainesville, which outlasted Mitchell 24-17 in the first round. And like Vanguard before it, Sunlake has experience against what is expected to be a tough Hurricanes team that is far better than its 6-5 record might indicate.
“We played Gainesville before, so we know what to expect,” Browning said, citing the 17-14 loss to the Hurricanes last year that knocked Sunlake out of the playoffs in the first round.
And how will the Seahawks prepare?
“We’ll just keep believing in ourselves,” Browning said, “and work hard.”
RUSHING—Nathan Johnson 20-102, Dayton Feiden 8-64, Mosi Davis 1-46, Naejaun Jackson 5-26, Logan Wolfe 4-25, Terrence Jackson 1-7.
PASSING—Dayton Feiden 4-5-0-63.
RECEIVING—Terrence Jackson 1-37, Nick Valdes 2-33, A.J. McClendon 1-4.
QB SACKS—Austin Yeloushan 1.5, Dylan Franklin 1, Spencer Jarvis 1, Will Alvarez 1, Kalon Gipson 0.5.
INTERCEPTIONS—Mosi Davis 1, Dylan Stanton 1
Published November 19, 2014
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