APOPKA, Fla. - It is what every high school football player dreams about, having an opportunity to play in the state championship game.
It simply does not get any bigger or better than this.
Game time was slated for 7:07 p.m., however the Apopka lower bowl section of the Citrus Bowl was full to the brim by 6:30 with yelling fans and nervous parents.
This is the Florida High School Athletic Association's class 8A final!
Apopka vs. Cypress Bay is your match-up.
Many consider Apopka to be a Cinderella story this year. Led by QB Zack Darlington, Apopka defeated Dr. Phillips last week in the semifinals to advance to the state championship.
Saturday marked Apopka's first appearance back into a state championship since they were crowned 6A champions back in 2001.
Cypress Bay, the largest high school in the state of the Florida had to get thru Miami Miramar, Seminole Ridge and Miami Columbus to get here tonight.
Plus, Cypress Bay are nicknamed the Lightning, it does not get much cooler than that!
But enough of my rambling, let's get to the game, shall we?
If I were to describe this game with one word, the word i'd simply use is electrifying.
Out of twenty possessions between both teams, fifteen of them resulted in scores for either the Blue Darters or the Lightning.
There was over one-thousand yards of offense.
Both teams would also combine for over twenty-five penalties resulting in over two-hundred yards of penalty yardage. If you turned your head to sneeze, you felt as if you missed something.
First quarter action saw Apopka and Cypress Bay deliver blows to one another. It was kind of like a boxing match, both fighter feeling each other out with some quick jabs at first.
Apopka started the scoring off with a Daquon Isom 5 yard touchdown run. The lightning then would respond with a beautiful back-of-the end-zone connection from Jaranta Lewis to highly recruited wide receiver Alex Montgomery. Score would be tied 7-7 very early in the first quarter.
On the very next possession, head coach Rick Darlington said he was going to throw everything he had into this game and it seemed like it.
QB Zack Darlington play faked to his left, got the defense moving and then crisply hit Daquon Isom again for a fifteen yard touchdown. Apopka up 14-7.
Let's move to the second quarter now, Apopka out in front 36-21 after the dazzling Chandler Cox powered his way into the end-zone.
However, Cypress Bay would not quit. The lightning were just getting started.
Matt Dayes, the big bruising running back for Cypress Bay would add two touchdowns (runs of 5 and 2 yards) near the end of the first half to get his Lightning back into the game.
The Blue Darters were out in front 39-28 going into halftime but no one, and trust me when I say no one in the stadium felt like that mattered.
This game would be won or lost in the second half of play.
This was like a wild west shootout!
For the Lightning who would receive the ball first in the third quarter, they needed to come out of the break and get a score.
They did not want to go down three scores to the Blue Darters.
So, if you're the Lightning who do you call on?
Mr. Dayes anyone?
The running back took a hand-off up the middle and powered thru the Blue Darter defense for the score.
With roughly seven minutes to play in the third quarter, the score was 39-35, Apopka still holding on.
Let's move now to the fourth quarter where the real drama lives!
After Apopka went up 46-35 after another Chandler Cox run, Cypress Bay would add to scores to take the lead 50-46.
One touchdown came in the variety of a wonderful twenty-two yard touchdown pass from Jaranta Lewis to Alex Montgomery. Montgomery caught not one, not two, but three downs in this state championship game tonight.
Apopka facing a deficit for the first time in the game, had only five minutes to determine if they'd be immortalized as state champions forever, or the runners-up and have to try again next year.
After a well put together drive down the field, the Blue Darters were within Lightning territory with two minutes to play.
With 1:29 left in the game, the touchdown that will live in Apopka history forever was scored when Chandler Cox stumbled and grumbled his way thru Cypress Bay defenders for a two yard touchdown.
Apopka would now take the lead very late in the fourth quarter 53-50.
Cypress Bay on the its last possession had the chances to try and win or tie the game, but those chances were put out quickly when Lightning QB Jaranta Lewis had his pass intercepted in Apopka territory by Rakeem Smith.
And that was all she wrote in this one.
Apopka wins the game 53-50 and are state champions.
All that mattered once the final whistle blew and rightfully so was that the Blue Darters, for one year will be considered the best high school football team in Florida's top division of football, class 8A.
Congratulations to Apopka to all of the teams who represented their high schools in all of these finals this week and last.