The University School football team has always prided itself on its close-knit “family” atmosphere.
On Friday night, the Suns proved it. Leading three-time state champion Cocoa on the road 14-3 in a hostile environment midway through the third quarter and the game still very much in doubt, they watched one of their closest family members, wide receiver Jordan Cunningham go down after a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit over the middle by Tarean Folston.
Cunningham did not get up but had full movement as fire rescue was called eventually taking him away to Westhorf Memorial Hospital simply as a precautionary measure as it only appeared to be a stinger.
But that was enough to get the Suns fired up and they responded by taking things to another gear, outscoring the Tigers 35-0 the rest of the way to record a stunning 49-3 rout of a team that won three consecutive state titles from 2008-10.
“Jordan is one of our captains and a member of our family and you saw how our kids responded,” said coach Roger Harriott, who saw his team move to 3-0. “You could tell immediately on the sideline that they took it personally and responded appropriately.”
Led by running back Jordan Scarlett, who ran wild in the second half, the Suns took the ball right down the field after the 25 minute delay and scored on a Scarlett touchdown to make it 21-3.
Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, linebacker Brandon Boyce sacked Cocoa quartetrback Jaelon Knowles, stripped the ball and linebacker Nick Internicola fell on it in the end zone and it was 28-3 University and things snowballed from there.
• Chaminade 38, Westminster Christian 21: Junior Alex Thomas returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns to help lead Chaminade-Madonna past visiting Westminster Christian in a pivotal District 8-3A game.
Last year, the Lions (3-0, 1-0) finished as the district runner-up to University School and earned a playoff spot because they beat third-place Westminster Christian (1-2, 0-1) head-to-head. Chaminade will play University on Oct. 4.
On Friday, the Lions remained in a tight game with the Warriors until late in the third quarter.
After Chaminade kicker Felipe Carvalho kicked a 36-yard field goal with 1:27 remaining in the period to break a 14-all tie, the Lions’ Richard Lefevre recovered the ensuing kickoff at the Westminster 26 when nobody for the Warriors went for the ball. Quarterback Sean White then scored on a 1-yard sneak three plays later to make it 24-14.
The Warriors, who played without injured quarterback Hunter Boyett for the entire second half, then punted to Thomas on their next drive and he returned it 65 yards for a score. Thomas had an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first half.
“I watch Devin Hester a lot,” said Thomas, who also had three catches for 62 yards. “He just get it and goes. [On the punt] I just saw a wall, razor right and I just took it down the sideline.”
Warriors sophomore running back Tim Irvin ran for two touchdowns in the first half and finished with 76 yards rushing on 10 carries. Freshman backup quarterback Tony Gaiter led the Warriors on a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive to pull within 31-21 with 6:49 remaining.
But Lions freshman running back Cavin Ridley, who finished with 142 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown, led Chaminade right back down the field and converted a crucial 4th and 4 in the red zone to setup White for his second touchdown.
• Mater Academy 17, Calvary Christian 13: The visiting Lions gained all of their yardage on the ground, picking up 243 yards with junior Octavio Garcia leading the way with 161 yards on 20 carries. He scored both of Mater’s touchdowns in the first half.
Kicker Gustavo Roman accounted for the score in the second half with a 22-yard field goal as the Lions (2-1) managed to weather the passing performance of Calvary quarterback Isaac Hoza (19 of 36 for 316 yards, 1 TD).
The Eagles (2-1) failed to score in the second half, but they reached the Lions 30 in the final drive; a mishandled high snap derailed Calvary’s rally with 17 seconds remaining. An incomplete pass in the end zone sealed the victory for Mater.
• Lakeland 27, Flanagan 7: Flanagan couldn’t stop Lakeland’s bruising running game and its receivers dropped too many passes to gain momentum on the offensive side of the ball, lapses that cost the team its first loss of the season.
Quarterback Ryan Stanley had plenty of time to throw against Lakeland, and he finished with 138 yards on 26 of 49 passing, but his receivers weren’tas tuned in on the big pass plays.
“Our skill guys struggled a little bit,” Flanagan coach Don Simon said. “But Lakeland also did a great job on a couple of over the top coverages. They knew to keep everything in front of them.”
Flanagan scored in the third when Emonee Spence caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Stanley. It was his second catch of the evening and came with 20.7 seconds left in the quarter. Stanley marched his offense down the field 60 yards on the scoring drive, and connected with Spence at about the 5-yard mark on fourth and 13. Spence eluded two tacklers to get into the end zone.
• American Heritage 48, Lake Highland Prep 10: More than 500 fans packed the stands of Heritage Field to watch American Heritage rout visiting Lake Highland Prep.
The Patriots (2-1) jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, a lead the Highlanders (1-2) could not overcome. Torrence Gibson scored on a 56-yard run and senior quarterback Tyler Cogswell connected for two first-half touchdowns to Isaiah McKenzie to put the game out of reach.
Cogswell, a University of Arkansas commit, finished the game with 194 yards and three touchdowns, completing 8 of his 11 passes.
• Plantation 47, Dillard 28: The Colonels (2-1) scored seven touchdowns in three quarters in an impressive win over the Panthers (1-2) at PAL field in front of about 525 fans.
The Plantation offense did not take the field until early in the second quarter.
The special teams scored on three consecutive kick returns. The first was a 90-yard kickoff return by running back Antwuan Haynes. The second, a 85-yard kickoff return by defensive back Sojourn Shelton. The third, a 25-yard punt return by defensive back Antonio Clark.
• Cardinal Gibbons 29, Stranahan 12: Chiefs quarterbacks Ryan Giaratano and Peyton Bender combined for 190 yards and four scores as Cardinal Gibbons defeated the Dragons in front of about 300 fans.
Stranahan gave up 77 yards on eight penalties and were plagued by dropped passes throughout the game.
The Dragons are now 0-3 to begin the season with conference play beginning next week against Archbishop McCarthy.