Because ESPN went to all the trouble of bringing cameras and a production crew to Brevard County for the Cocoa High Tigers’ preseason football game on Saturday, senior running back Tarean Folston graciously obliged with the highlight play of the day.
With the Tigers holding a 10-point lead over Class 3A No. 1 American Heritage of Delray Beach four minutes into the second quarter, Folston took a handoff from his own 40 and found his way past the defense for an apparent breakaway touchdown. The Stallions’ Ka’Wan Peete had another plan, however, putting himself in position to drop Folston at the 7.
The Cocoa senior, with more than 30 college scholarship offers, scored anyway, stopping to allow Peete to fly past him and out of bounds. Folston then trotted into the end zone.
From there, Cocoa, No. 3 in Class 4A, rolled to a 25-7 win.
“I was going for the dive, but he got there before me, so I just stopped,” Folston said. “I know my leverage and angles, so I knew he wasn’t going to be able to get me.”
And from there, the visitors weren’t going to be able to get the Tigers, on offense or defense.
Cocoa quarterback Jaelon Knowles, who showed promise last year but also had troubles establishing himself behind a young offensive line, looked like a new player on Saturday. His 17-yard pass to Jamel Dean that set up the first field goal seemed to open up the field for the Cocoa running backs, who went on to do the bulk of the work.
“It’s the same plays, but I’m more comfortable this year,” Knowles said. “I can’t even describe it, but I’m more confident with the offensive line, especially being together two years. I know they’ve got my back.”
They had his front, too. The line, which head coach John Wilkinson said is the biggest he’s had at Cocoa, looked to struggle against a smothering American Heritage defense on the first series, when the Tigers ran three plays, lost three yards and punted. As the line continued to work, the backs continued to pound, and after the first completion to Dean, the game appeared to shift heavily toward the Tigers.
“I think especially that we caught the first ball, people think, ‘uh oh,’ ” Wilkinson said.
Knowles later found Folston uncovered for a 21-yard touchdown pass just seconds into the second quarter for the 10-0 lead.
American Heritage opened the second half by moving the ball down the field and scoring on a 1-yard plunge at 5:42 of the third. Quarterback Marcus Davis took it the final yard after senior running back and highly touted recruit Greg Bryant set up the Stallions’ offense inside the 5.
The Tigers padded their lead to 19-7 as a result of the Cocoa defense’s efforts. Davis, hassled by the Tigers’ pass rush, had to fall on a rolling ball a yard inside the end zone, where he was covered for a safety at 2:25 of the third. As the Tigers put more pressure on the American Heritage line, the visitors incurred a few holding penalties and eventually gave up the safety.
“I was doing everything I could do to get to the outside and then come inside to the quarterback,” said outside linebacker Tavares Parks. “They couldn’t block us.”
Cocoa wrapped up the scoring at 11:56 of the final quarter when Antwan Lee swept left into the end zone. A two-point run attempt failed.