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.