Highlands Junior Varsity team beats Lakeland for title
JIM TAYLORSEBRING - - The Highlands Eagles Junior Varsity team overcame early mistakes and a 12-point deficit to win an overtime thriller by a score of 19-12 over the Lakeland Hurricanes to earn their first Super Bowl title on Saturday at Firemen's Field.
Published: November 21, 2012
Published: November 21, 2012
"We overcame a lot of early mistakes," said Highlands Eagles Coach Cliff Howell. "But the one thing I've got to say about our guys is that they have so much character. I cannot even express or put into words how much character that they have. How hard they have worked for this victory, some of them since March, and they came through today.
"They never quit."
Bad snaps from the shotgun put the Eagles in bad field position to start the game. After punting the ball away deep in their territory, it took little time for the Hurricanes to put the first points of the game on the scoreboard.
A 25-yard run by Lakeland's Tobias Larry capped their first drive and gave the Hurricanes a 6-0 lead after they failed to convert the extra point.
After nearly losing the following kickoff, the Eagles turned the ball over on another bad snap at Eagles 8-yard line.
The Junior Varsity defense stood tall as they forced a turnover on downs to trail 6-0 heading into the second quarter.
That didn't last long as the Hurricanes intercepted a pass at the Eagle 8.
Larry scored his second touchdown of the game on a 9-yard gallop up the middle. Again the Hurricanes failed to convert the extra point for a 12-0 lead.
The Eagles responded by putting together a drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Eagle quarterback Cleotis Harris III. The extra point failed making the score 12-6 at the half.
The third quarter was scoreless as the defenses dominated the action.
With a minute left in the game, the Eagles forced the Hurricanes to punt the ball from their 40.
Punting into the wind, the ball never crossed the line of scrimmage and bounced back to the Hurricanes 30-yard line.
A Lakeland player picked the ball up, but was quickly tackled by the Eagles, giving the Eagles the ball on Lakeland's 30.
On the next play, Harris dropped a pass in between a pair of Hurricane defenders down the left sideline to Darryl Taylor Jr, who jumped high to make the catch at the 3-yard line.
"I was emotional because I thought we were done when we let them catch that long pass," said Taylor. "Then it was like payback and we completed a long pass and got in the end zone.
The Eagles scored on the next play on Harris's second touchdown run of the day from 3 yards out and 24 seconds left on the clock.
With a chance to win the game on the extra point, the Eagles were stopped and the game went into overtime tied at 12.
The Eagles got the ball first at the 10-yard yard line and scored on the first play as Harris ran the ball up the middle, but fumbled the ball before reaching the end zone.
The ball bounced over the line into the end zone where it was recovered by the Eagles' Rafael Smith to give the Eagles their first lead of the game at 18-12.
Malcolm Jackson made a spectacular one-handed catch to convert the extra point to make it 19-12.
That became mute after the Hurricanes first play. They attempted to pass the ball in the end zone, it was tipped up in the air and intercepted by the Eagles Anthony Robinson to end the game and secure the Super Bowl for the Highlands Eagles.
"In the youth league it's hard to come back when you're down," Howell said. "They fought through the adversity and I am so proud of them.
"There are so many play-makers on this team and I love them all."