8A Shootout: Mandarin Takes the State Crown Over Columbus

Orlando, December 9, 2018- What many thought wouldn’t be a close contest, turned out to be one of the most action-packed matchups of FHSAA Championship weekend. The Mandarin Mustangs 10-4 Columbus Explorers 14-0 (records before kickoff) combine for loads of playmakers and was a true sight to see for the respectable fan base from both sides. Allow me to take you through these glistening Saturday night lights with a BCP game re-cap. 

Mandarin defeated 37-35 in a gut-wrenching finish. Columbus took the lead early (first minute) with a 71-yard reception touchdown to wide receiver and free safety, Xzavier Henderson. Mandarin answered just a couple minutes later with 23-yard reception TD caught by WR/FS and senior captain Demario Douglas- some shifty maneuvering weaving through traffic!

Mustangs’ senior WR Kris Mitchell adds to the scoreboard with a 41-yard sideline snag for a TD, leading 14-7 at the end of the 1st quarter. The second quarter opened up with Mustangs’ senior cornerback Darien Oxendine intercepting the Explorers’ pass attempt at midfield, bringing Mandarin into field goal range- the 28-yard kick, straight through the uprights. 

Columbus fired back before their drive, with a 63-yard kickoff return by WR Duriel Moss; setting up the offense with great field position. Senior WR Kalani Norris walked in a 14-yard reception TD- courtesy of a vicious block on the outside left sideline by junior quarterback Brandon McDuffy!

Mandarin responded, coasting the chains downfield very efficiently thanks to some extra seconds in the pocket from the consistent offensive line play. Junior quarterback Carson Beck THREADS a goal-line DOT to WR Demario Douglas, through a TIGHT window- Douglas’ collecting his second catch and score on the night.

The Explorers drove down the field with some impressive scattered receptions and runs after the catch, but hopes of cutting the Mustangs lead down before the half diminished after none other than… Demario Douglas with the end zone pick! 24-14 Mustangs at halftime.

The second half was just as thrilling if not more, as the clock wound down the pace went up tremendously and so did the shrills from the fans. With a little over a minute left in the 4th, it came down to a game-deciding play. Columbus QB Brandon McDuffy throws up a 9-yard TD to 6’4” 185-pound (holy next-level size) junior WR Xzavier Henderson but the 2-pt conversion was no good. 

MVP status: Demario Douglas sets new FHSAA record, racking up FOUR COUNT EM’ FOUR receiving touchdowns!

Mandarin Mustangs walk out of Camping World Stadium victorious with their first State Championship! 

Vaughan Sixbury, BCP Contributor