This article was written by Alex Becker, class of 2019.
Despite the lower seeding, the Patriots defeated the No. 4 seeded Westwood Panthers 37-14 in the opening round of the FHSAA Class 5A State Tournament.
After a delayed start due to a power outage, the Patriots struck first on a three yard rushing touchdown from senior running back Lavelton. An ambitious call to go for a two-point conversion put the Patriots up 8-0 with the conversion from senior running back Brandon Cohen.
A quick drive from the Panthers gave the ball right back to the Patriots around midfield. However, Panthers senior Coy Gray forced a fumble and gave the ball back to Westwood. Westwood was unable to capitalize, punting it back to the Pats once again.
The next score did not come until five minutes remained in the first half. The Patriots marched 49 yards down field to set up a 15-yard rushing TD for Williams. Head coach Patrick Surtain rolled the dice once more, again converting a two-point try with Cohen, extending the lead to 16.
The half ended on a 60-yard hail mary from sophomore quarterback Matthew O’Dowd to sophomore slot back Vinson Davis III as time expired to give the Patriots a 23-0 cushion before half.
The third quarter was extremely slow with no scoring and four changes of possession. However, on the second play of the fourth quarter, sophomore safety James Williams read the quarterback’s eyes and jumped the route for a 45-yard pick six, pushing the Patriot lead to 30-0.
The ensuing Panther possession finally ended in points after a end-around handoff to junior wide receiver Deondre Wallace got in the end zone for six. The Panthers made good on the following two-point conversion to make it 30-8.
The Panther’s comeback attempt was almost immediately broken as the Patriots scored once more on 19-yard quarterback keeper from eighth grader Blake Murphy. Westwood would go on to score once more, but it was not enough, as the Patriots sealed the 37-14 victory to move on to the next round of the playoffs.
The Patriots will face the No. 1 seed Rockledge Raiders next week.