Football finishes 9-1, advances to playoffs


photo by Chatham Farrell

Running back Tony Felix carries the ball in the 51-0 win against Edgewater on Friday, Oct. 28. Felix and two other running backs, Tavis Thompson and Leo Gomez, each scored a touchdown in the game.

The varsity football team is once again headed to the state playoffs after defeating District 4 opponent Edgewater, 51-0, on Friday, Oct. 28. Even though the team did not accomplish the goal of repeating as district champions, they will still advance as district runner-ups and play at Buchholz in Gainesville, Fla. in the Class 7A Regional Quarterfinals on Friday, Nov. 11.

“This season has been great,” head coach Phil Ziglar said. “If we would’ve won the district championship again, great, but our goal was to get into the playoffs and we did just that.”

For the team, not only was the Edgewater game their last district game, but also senior night for the 26 seniors. Six of the seven touchdowns were scored by seniors, and despite the blowout victory, the seniors felt sentimental afterwards.

“It was bittersweet, thinking this might be our last time playing [in Sam Momary Stadium] ever,” corner back Matt Lipari said. “It’s just one last ride for me that I’ll never forget.”

Last season, the team defeated Edgewater to win the district championship, but Ocoee won this year with a 20-13 victory on Saturday, Oct. 1. The game was rescheduled due to heavy rain the previous night.

Buchholz is 6-2 and won the District 3 championship this season. If the team defeats Buchholz, they would play either Bartram Trail, who defeated them last season in the regional quarterfinals, 28-21, or Ocoee in the regional semifinals on Friday, Nov. 18. Either game would represent a second chance for Ziglar and the team.

“It doesn’t matter which team we’d face, but we’d love a rematch with Ocoee,” Ziglar said. “If we get the chance, we’d beat them and I wouldn’t be worried one bit.”

Even though Ziglar expected to be in the situation the team is in now, for players like defensive end Sam Ditmyer, the team’s progress thus far exceeded his expectations.

“Without the district championship, this season has still been one of the best at this school,” Ditmyer said. “I had confidence in our team, but to be in the position we’re in now is crazy, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

This season, the team finished 9-1, the only loss coming to Ocoee on homecoming Saturday. Although the Oviedo victory on Sept. 9 was a highlight, the team made more school history as they recorded shutouts against Lake Minneola, 37-0, West Port, 41-0, and Edgewater, and held every opponent to under 20 points.

On offense, running backs Leo Gomez and Tavis Thompson led the way, both recording over 10 touchdowns; while Ditmyer and Lipari starred on defense. Lipari recorded 10 tackles and one pass break-up, and he was named to the Orlando Touchdown Club after the team’s 38-14 victory against East Ridge on Oct. 7.

“We have pushed ourselves to come out with a win each game,” Thompson said. “We have all the confidence right now to go into every game with the same game plan and win like we have done all season.”

Although senior leadership has played a factor throughout the season, sophomores, including running back Jordan Gilbert, have made contributions.

“It’s been a great experience to be working with some of the older guys,” Gilbert, who scored six touchdowns this season, said. “We’ve built a program, not just a team, and hopefully we’ll be on our way to winning a state championship to build a lasting legacy.”

Before the playoffs, the team played at Timber Creek in their final regular season game on Friday, Nov. 4, but results could not be printed in time for this issue.
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“Now that we’ve approached the playoffs, we just have to take it one game at a time,” Ziglar said. “We have the film on Buchholz, and we‘re just going to continue what we’ve been doing on offense and defense this whole season to get us the win.”