8A: Apopka moves past 4 losses to wear the crown

Apopka 30, Columbus 23

Orlando – The final day of the 2014 season did not disappoint; unless of course you were fans from the Seffner or Sweetwater areas of Tampa and Miami respectively. The Christopher Columbus Explorers gave the Apopka Blue Darters all they could handle despite a historically poor (and state finals record-breaking) performance on the ground. Ordinarily, if you gain a net rushing yardage of (-11) yards, you should expect a running clock, but that’s not the case this evening as the Explorers were able to exploit holes (well, actually ONE hole at DB) in the Blue Darters Secondary to keep things interesting. Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights if you will) of the 8A title game.

If the 6A game was a lesson in offensive futility, then the 8A game was downright dreamy for those that enjoy a little more than three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust. The two teams combined for total of 37 first downs (Columbus 19, Apopka 18), 118 plays and 633 yards of total offense. (Apopka 62 plays-350yards, Columbus 56-283)…Columbus and Apopka scored eight of the nine times they were in the red zone combined while both teams converted their third downs at a nearly 50% success rate.

A record that most ( if not all at Columbus) would like to forget….(-11)….The Explorers were held to the lowest total output in state finals history in terms of net yards rushing. The previous record was set by St. Augustine vs. Naples (-10yds) in 2007. Fifteen of Apopka’s 18 first downs came courtesy of the ground game while all of Columbus’ nineteen came via the air. Apopka has (now, had) never won a state title when turning the ball over…a trend that has obviously now been broken.

Things weren’t all bad for Columbus however. Although this was only their 2nd title appearance since 1982, (juxtaposed with Apopka’s third in as many years and second title in three years). Seniors Fernando Escobar and JR Garrigo each added 11 tackles each as the Explorers hit the Blue Darters Defense for 10 tackles for loss. Garrigo also added an interception and a forced fumble to his resume in his final game as a member of this squad.

One final thing…Apopka’s average starting field position was their own 40 yard-line. When a team averages 42 points per game, it is not advisable to give an offense of that caliber that kind of starting field position. Tough to win ball games when you can’t run, have the ball almost an entire quarter kept away from you and cannot get your defense to get the opposing team off the field on third down or in the red zone.

This is all you need to say about it:
“Feels like a relief. No one remembers what the game was like, they only remember if you won a state championship.” – Apopka Head Coach Rick Darlington

– Doug Pugh