Apopka overcomes injury to QB by beating Lake Brantley, 15-9

By Steven Ryzewski, Bright House Sports Network
Last Updated: Saturday, September 08, 2012, 12:29 AM EDT

Kevin “Ray” Smith learned a new position Friday night for the Apopka Blue Darters.

Luckily for Apopka, the sophomore running back/wide receiver learned quickly – stepping in and taking the majority of the snaps and carries in the “Single Wing,” a direct snap offense the Blue Darters were forced to implement once starting quarterback Zack Darlington came out of the game with an injured leg.

Smith learned his new role quick enough to pick up 128 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown, leading Apopka (1-1) to a scrappy 15-9 win over visiting rival Lake Brantley (1-1).

“[Smith] hadn’t played that position ever – ever. We basically taught him on the run,” Blue Darters head coach Rick Darlington said. “He had to step in when Zack went down and it was a lot of ‘You do this’ and ‘You do that.’”

The 15 unanswered points Apopka rattled off in the second half represented quite the change from a first half that saw the Patriots leading 9-0 and in control. With Darlington out for the game, the Blue Darters went almost entirely to a running attack, with only one pass attempt in the second half.

Senior running back Jevric Blocker found the end zone first on a 15 yard rush, but it was Smith’s big 76-yard breakaway late in the third quarter – and the play just before it – that defined the game.

Up 9-7, Lake Brantley was cruising down field when a fumble was picked up by Apopka’s Isaiah Buehler. It was Buehler’s second fumble recovery of the night, and the junior defensive lineman was off to the races, taking the ball 93 yards the other way with only one problem; a flag had been thrown for a block in the back.

The crushing penalty would seem to have taken away a dramatic swing in momentum for the Blue Darters. What Apopka still had, though, was possession of the ball at their own 24-yard line, and that was when Smith found daylight just one play later and made the play of the night.

“All I had to do is just step up,” Smith said. “Coach just told me to follow my [offensive] line – that’s what I did.”

The momentum swing in Apopka’s favor left Lake Brantley unable to start the season 2-0. While the Patriots had some offensive success in the first half, the offensive attack anchored by senior quarterback Damon Haecker bogged down in the third and fourth quarters.

Where Damon completed four-of-10 passes in the first half for 76 yards and ran for a touchdown, Lake Brantley was unable to convert a third down in the second half and had only one first down.

The Patriots will now look to rebound against Oviedo at home on Sept. 14.

For Apopka, the win came at a great expense. After the game Darlington commented on his injured quarterback, saying originally it had appeared to be a broken leg but that it may not be quite as severe. While the come-from-behind win didn’t erase the memories of a season-opening loss to Dr. Phillips, they definitely put the program and its staff in a good mood heading into a bye week before playing Olympia on Sept. 21.

“Our team showed great character tonight,” Darlington said. “I can’t think of a more pleasing win.”