Sometimes a loss can be energizing.
Last week’s loss to Catholic may have just been the wake-up call the Jaguars needed to recharge for the playoffs.
It proved to be the case Friday night against lowly Washington, as visiting West Florida scored 35 points before halftime, then coasted to a 37-13 victory at Sherman Robinson Stadium.
“It was a big win. I challenged them. We had to figure out if we were going to get back off the floor after a defeat, and what kind of character we have,” Jaguar head coach Harry Lees said. “I thought our kids came out and did a great job. They executed in the first half. Anytime you get a running clock in the second quarter, you must be doing something right.”
It was an easy, almost effortless game of pitch and catch for the Jags in the first two quarters, as Joey Baker found Daylen Abrams four times for scores.
“It was a good team victory after a loss last week,” Abrams said. “We bounced back this week. This gives us a lot of confidence and allows us to stay up. The plays were just open for me. The way they lined up, they had it open for my position, and I just capitalized on it. We’ve got a lot of athletes, and all of us can play. We’ve got a very physical defense–they come up and hit. They give us the confidence to play well on offense.”
After forcing a Washington punt to start the game, West Florida quickly got things going offensively, predominantly with yard-churning swing passes to Abrams and Keevin Lewis. After connecting with Abrams for 20 yards, Baker found him again on a crossing route for a 14-yard touchdown for the game’s first score.
Following another three-and-out by the Wildcats, the Jags scored within three plays, as Baker hit Abrams again. The receiver looked to be stopped at about the Washington 20, but a spin move and broken tackle allowed him to break free for a 43-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 West Florida with 5:08 left in the first quarter. The Jags soon made it a three-score game as Abrams scored on another crossing pattern pass from Baker to cap off a 72-yard, nine-play drive to end the quarter.
The Jags converted on fourth down from their own 32 on their next drive, and crisp, high-percentage passes to Chris Mitchell and Vonche Hale put the ball at Cats 2. Baker kept it himself on the next play, and Tristan Parsley notched the point-after to make it 28-0 West Florida.
Washington’s next drive stalled at its own 14. Baker then threw a strike to Abrams in stride to complete a 36-yard Jaguar touchdown and cap of the half’s scoring.
“It was a great effort by both sides of the ball,” said Baker, who completed his first 12 passes. “Our defense did everything we could to keep them off the board. On offense, we went out and produced on every drive. Tonight was a big confidence builder for us. Our offensive line did a great job tonight. I don’t think I was on the ground one time. My jersey’s pretty clean.
“We know we’ve got a big week next week, so this was good practice for us. Nothing’s better than live games. We’re going back there for revenge. It’s going to be a hard game, but if we go in with the confidence we have, it’s going to be pretty good.”
The Jaguars rested several starters in the second half, yet still maintained control throughout. Even Baker’s lone blemish of the night, an interception by Terik Miller near Washington’s goal line didn’t come back to haunt them. Two plays after the pick, Hunter Campbell, Dane Stolsig and a host of Jaguar defenders converged to sack Terrance Myles in the end zone for a safety to make it 37-0.
Defensively, it was a far cry for a team that gave up over thirty points the week before.
“We kind of a had a slow week of practice. You could tell everyone was depressed from last week, we just had to get back into it,” said West Florida safety Dakota Milstead, who played the first two quarters. “I thought we were going to come out a lot slower than we did. But we came out and did our job. All we have to do is have a good week of practice and worry about our game. If we do that, they can’t stop us.”
Miller helped Washington avoid the shutout as he scooped up a dropped lateral and raced 41 yards for a touchdown. Garry Lawrence hit Jairus Jordan in the corner of the end zone for another score, but it was not enough.
Coach Lees was happy with the win, but he knows there’s a bigger test in Tallahassee next week.
“I’m real proud of our kids, and we’re excited about the challenge we have for next week,” he said. “If you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. The championship runs through Godby. If we’re good enough, we’ll advance. Tonight, we just got in a rhythm. It was a total effort and defense played lights out.”