Football falls to Lake Mary in playoffs


photo by Brett Beliech

Senior Jeremiah Williams runs the ball during the first half of the game against Lake Mary. Constant rain in the first half disrupted the offense and led to a couple of turnovers in the 28-0 loss.

Despite ending the regular season with losses against Winter Park and Oviedo, the varsity football team played their best season since 2017, finishing with a 8-2 record and qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2020. They traveled to Lake Mary for the first-round game. 

Due to Tropical Storm Nicole, the game was pushed back to Monday, Nov 14. Lake Mary was 6-3, but had played a tougher schedule .

The game was a wet one, and rain was not the only battle the team had to face. The weather obstructed quarterback Anthony Benzija’s pass plays, which led to two interceptions and several punts in the first half, and a 21-0 halftime deficit. 

In the second half, the weather cleared and the defense held Lake Mary to just one score. The offense moved the ball better as well, twice getting in Lake Mary’s red zone.  

However, the team turned the ball over on downs three times, and twice after taking Lake Mary to the 8- and 27-yard line, but Lake Mary did not stay there for long. They were able to throw a quick pass and score a touchdown, making the score 28-0, as the final quarter approached. 

Hagerty turned the ball over two more times, as Benzija was intercepted, and the game finished 28-0, ending the season. But the highlight of the season was making the playoffs, and to even guarantee their spot, the team had to survive Spruce Creek on Oct. 28. 

At the end of the game, Hagerty had stopped Spruce Creek on defense, causing them to punt the ball, but Benzija had a touchdown called back and then was sacked three times in a row, leading to a fourth and 30. But Benzija threw a hail mary to wide receiver Ian Miller and scored the winning touchdown. According to players, the ending was “electrifying” and “crazy.” 

“We thought we were going to win easily and then they came back, and we knew we needed to score immediately,” Miller said. “We ran a hail mary and I made the winning play of the game. It felt electric.” 

The game did start smoothly, and the team was winning, 16-3 going into halftime. Once the third quarter began, Spruce Creek got the momentum and the lead, 21-16 as the fourth quarter approached. 

“They hit us harder than we thought they would. We went into that game thinking we were going to have an easy win,” corner Michael Byers said.  

After the 22-21 win, the team had to refocus and play Oviedo on Friday. Nov 4. Playing Oviedo is never a civil game, as there is always lots of chanting and animosity throughout the game.  

Oviedo scored first, leaving the team behind 6-0 in the first quarter. They then stopped the two-point conversion and took the lead 7-6 as they moved into halftime. 

“Everyone felt ready— I think it was just the simple mistakes that changed the game, and those mistakes happened because of pressure,” Byers said. 

Leading up to the Oviedo game, the team studied game footage and ran plays that they had not used yet, but when it came to game time, they just could not execute. 

“People were running in the wrong places, especially during throws. Our linemen missed blocks and left gaps,” Benzija said. “We need to execute better under pressure. We let our nerves play a factor.” 

Benzija was the player of the Oviedo game, throwing for one touchdown and 251 yards, and though the team lost to Oviedo 26-18, they ended their normal season with an 8-2 record and moved into the playoffs. 

“Going into that game every year, there is always a lot of pressure on us since it’s the hometown rivalry. Everyone comes to watch,” Byers said.

Even though the team struggled in the last three games, they ended knowing it has been the best season in the last five years. The team finished with six wins of 21 points or more and two shutouts. Head coach Steven Mikles is pleased with his team’s progress.

“We outperformed my expectations. I thought we played really well, especially defensively, throughout the year,” Mikles said. “I knew that we were going to be pretty good when we played University and we basically shut them out… that’s when I knew we were pretty good.”