With 5:44 left to play in the second quarter of Pensacola High’s game against Catholic Friday, Tyriq Johnson’s name was called.
Not on the field, though.
Johnson, a backup junior defensive end for Pensacola High School, had a school official shouting his name and trying to locate Johnson’s No. 50 in the home maroon.
Once Johnson was located along the sidelines, he learned that his mother, Renee Johnson, was at the south end zone gate with a message.
After 13 years of heartbreak and painstaking dialysis trips, Renee Johnson’s name was being called, too — for that new kidney she has so desperately needed for nearly all of young Tyriq’s life.
She informed her shell-shocked son that a match had been found in Puerto Rico, and she had to leave tonight to get prepared for surgery in Birmingham, Ala., this weekend.
Tyriq Johnson returned to the sideline a ball of emotion. Ecstatic that his prayers had finally been answered. But anxious that he couldn’t leave with his mother for Birmingham.
Teammates and athletic trainers did their best to comfort him, but Tyriq Johnson’s mind was elsewhere for most of Friday.
Gators offense hits a new high
If one thing has changed at Escambia High, it’s the confidence.
Before the season, tailback Danikeei Hollowell put down as one of his goals to break Trent Richardson’s single-game rushing record.
Before Friday night’s game, the Escambia offensive line made a deal with coach Willie Spears that if they surpassed 600 yards on the ground, they’d get free chicken.
Both accomplished their goals — and more — Friday night in the Gators’ 70-54 win over Rutherford.
The Escambia offensive line paved the way for a new school record 718 yards on the ground — the third best all-time in Florida — and Hollowell bested Richardson’s single-game mark with 443 yards.
Each week, we give a player of the game and that player gets free chicken at Wing Stop,” Spears said. “Each week, a running back has gotten it. The line has been asking for theirs, and I told them if we rushed for 600, the line would get player of the game and get free chicken.
“I was just throwing a number out there, so I said 600. About the fourth quarter, they were asking how close they were to 600.”
As for Hollowell, he took advantage as the big boys pushed defenders around. He increased his area rushing lead to 906 yards by nearly doubling his total from the first two games.
“Danikeei is so elated,” Spears said. “I just got off the phone with Trent. Trent called to speak with Danikeei and congratulate him on the record. He and Trent have a lot in common, as far as home life and academics.
“We ask all of our kids to write down goals and (breaking Richardson’s record) was one of his goals. I thought he could do it because some of the teams we play have trouble stopping the option. But when it actually happened, I was still in shock. That’s a lot when you think about it. It takes a lot to have that kind of night.”
Pierson Taylor holds the state’s team single-game rushing record with 727 yards. The mark was set in 2002 during a 75-28 win against Ocala Trinity Catholic. Jacksonville Trinity Christian is second after piling up 722 yards against Jacksonville University Christian in 1998.
Royals winning despite low numbers
Usually a building program adds a little depth as the years start to pass by. But for the Jay Royals, attrition and injuries have taken a toll on their depth, and the varsity squad dressed out only 20 kids for Friday night’s game against Vernon.
But the Royals fought through that adversity to move their record to 3-0 on the season with a 13-0 win against the Yellow Jackets.
Part of the reason for Jay’s success was the play of quarterback Tate Upton, on both sides of the ball. Upton scored a touchdown on a 1-yard plunge, then made a game-sealing interception on defense with 3:09 left in the regulation and with Vernon at the Jay 9-yard line.
“I just got beat on a slant route for about 40 yards (two plays earlier),” Upton said. “Coach told me to get outside leverage so I got outside leverage.”
Aggies riding high in midst of home stretch
Under first-year coach Ronnie Douglas, the Tate Aggies are off to a red-hot start after wins over PHS and Bay in the last two weeks.
The Aggies rode the arm of sophomore Sawyer Smith and senior tailback Tay Samuel in the victory over the Tornadoes on Friday at Pete Gindl Stadium.
Smith accounted for four TDs, while Samuel ran for 179 yards and a touchdown in leading the Aggies to another win. Last week, Samuel had a big game in helping the team beat PHS for the first time since 1997.
“He was a little banged up early in week, and we nursed him and got him back and he played the whole game and looked like he was strong all the way to end,” Tate coach Ronnie Douglas said.
Friday night’s game is the second of five straight home games for the Aggies — quite an interesting stretch for the rebuilding program.
Next Friday is the Aggies’ homecoming night against West Gadsden, and the team’s senior night and final home game is Oct. 4 against Niceville.
“It just worked out that way,” Douglas said. “Coming into this new district we are in, you got to go by last year’s schedule and you flip flop it from when you played teams last year. So it just so happened we wind up getting all our games front-end loaded.”
Eagles get passing game going
Pine Forest may have found what it was missing.
Despite losing 37-6 against Niceville on Friday, the Eagles found a bit of a passing game.
Tyrone Jones, who also starts at cornerback for Pine Forest, was inserted in passing situations and had some success. His 55-yard strike to Ken Burrows set up the Eagles only score, and the senior showed an ability to keep plays alive when the pocket started to collapse.
“We inserted Tyrone Jones to get us a little spark on offense, and I think it did,” Pine Forest coach Jerry Pollard said. “We moved the ball real well at times, and we just couldn’t stick it in the end zone. A lot of (the success) had to do with him, and then Reid came back in and did a good job running the option.”
Jones finished the game 5 of 11 and threw for 69 passing yards to go with 34 rushing yards.
PHS’ Molly Ambrose serves as captain
As PHS and Catholic players came to midfield Friday for the coin toss, a buzz spread through the stands when the Tigers captains were announced over the public address system.
You had Ricky McAroy, Jacob Mabry and Terri Dumas flanking a No. 81 whose hair was a bit longer than her teammates’.
Molly Ambrose, a female kicker who handles backup placekicking duties, had her helmet tucked underneath her right arm while the game’s officials determined who’d get the ball first.
“She’s one of our seniors,” Bennett said of Ambrose. “She kicks our extra points. We just didn’t get a chance to kick one tonight.”
Navarre’s Malter achieves national stardom
Navarre senior Blake Malter had eight catches for 82 yards in Friday night’s 28-19 win over the Pace Patriots.
But none of them were quite as spectacular as his catch last week that earned him a little national notoriety.
Malter made a diving, fully-extended catch for 45 yards in the Raiders’ 28-21 loss to Wakulla last week. The play was good enough to land on the Hudl National Top 5 plays of the week.
“It was huge, but I wasn’t really happy about it because we didn’t win,” Malter said. “It felt good to be in the top five plays in the nation.”