Backs against a wall, some teams thrive in those moments.
Florida High is one of those underdogs that slaps a couple non-believing press clippings up on the wall and says, “Give me more.”
That the Seminoles went in to North Florida Christian and walked away a 38-35 double overtime shouldn’t be a surprise.
Florida High has now won the last four meetings, and the most remarkable point about that stat is it is almost always by a new group seemingly undone by attrition.
“Last week was just one of those weeks where anything that could go wrong did,” said Seminoles coach Jarrod Hickman about a 19-13 district loss to Pensacola Catholic with eight seconds left.
“The rain came and messed with what we did on offense. We fumbled six times and didn’t get the ball to bounce our way. But I’m so proud of my kids for bouncing back this week and trusting what we tell them to do.”
With 1:40 left in regulation, NFC (4-2) tied the game at 28-28 and Florida High withstood a seconds-remaining Eagles possession to reach overtime.
Seminoles quarterback Isaiah Hill punched in a 1-yard touchdown run to score first, then NFC completed an improbable fourth-and-goal play.
Eagles quarterback Avery Thomas hit Nate Shafer in the back of the end zone to tie, and NFC immediately went back to work on offense.
This time, a fumble— NFC’s fourth turnover of the game— allowed Florida High (5-2) to line junior kicker Chase Allbaugh up for a first-down field goal.
Allbaugh, who was 5 for 5 on extra points previously, ignored an Eagles timeout and drilled the 27-yard game winner.
“Every practice we work on it, over and over,” Allbaugh said. “Our coach calls timeouts to freeze us. We just come out and do it. Feels really good.”
Eagles down early
NFC turned the ball over on its first three possessions, leading to 14 Florida High points and a quick deficit.
“Any time you turn the ball over against a good football team, it’s going to be hard to come back,” Eagles coach Robert Craft said. “But our guys fought back and put it all on the field. Win or lose, you’ve got to learn from this. It’s not district play, so certainly you want a good feeling, but we start district play next week. It matters starting next week.”
Hill was masterful, starting 6 of 6 passing and throwing touchdown strikes of 28 and 18 yards to Karenz Stephens and Christian McGowan, respectively, in the first quarter.
“I’ve known this offense (for years), it was the guys around me that needed help, learning things, recognizing things,” said Hill, who was 15 of 20 passing for 204 yards and four touchdowns on the night.
“It’s still a challenge lining up in formations sometimes, but we’re doing a good job.”
Like a veteran team, however, Florida High didn’t wilt when NFC responded, and when it made its own costly mistakes. The Seminoles had three turnovers during regulation as well.
The Eagles got a touchdown run by Jay Harrison before half to get close, then tied the game in the third quarter when Thomas threw a screen pass that running back Terrell Powell turned into a 29-yard touchdown.
Hill came right back and led his offense quickly down the field, re-taking the lead with an 11-yard swing pass to Kevin Sawyer.
“It’s a lot about about heart and team,” Hill said. “It’s just a bond. Everyone is staying calm. That’s the main thing, we stayed calm throughout and played throughout the game. Each down we came out ready to play.”
Charles busts a move
NFC running back Korey Charles (17 carries, 159 yards) had a 52-yard run in the first half, but his 30-yard burst up the middle on fourth down early in the fourth quarter was crucial.
The Eagles tied the game 21-21, only to have Hill throw his final touchdown pass with 2:27 left and burning four minutes off the clock.
Kyle Prater’s 5-yard touchdown reception but NFC in one more jam.
Fortunately for the Eagles, Charles wasn’t out of moves, he took a third-down screen pass 39 yards to the house by breaking two tackles and spinning out of another.
“That’s just a player making a play,” NFC coach Robert Craft said. “He had the will to get in there. Our guys up front did a great job. But Korey was determined. He wanted to play offense, defense and special teams at the end. I love that out of our seniors.”
Mathews in the middle
Besides Charles’ production, NFC receiver Armunz Mathews was a big component of the Eagles’ second-half surge.
He finished with nine receptions for 129 yards, most on 15-plus yard gains on deep slants from Thomas (21 of 35, 249 yards).
“It was probably the most times we’ve got him involved, but he’s another one playing both sides of the ball,” Craft said. “Those guys want to be on the field. I’m proud of them for wanting to be in there when the lights are on, trying to have a moment.”
Overcoming in OT
Stephens wasn’t part of a reception in overtime, but he did have a big 35-yard hookup with Hill to help Florida High take a 28-21 lead.
On the play, Stephens signaled to Hill about single coverage, and the receiver went on a go-route, making a tremendous catch along the sideline.
“Man coverage, that changes the percentage of a completion from like 50 percent to 70 percent with us,” Stephens explained. “We’re going to take that every time.”
After that, Stephens sat back and watched everyone else pitch in to get the W.
“It was a team victory,” said Stephens, who had four catches for 104 yards and the early touchdown. “We had to battle back to pull this out. We had to battle back and forth, but we got it done.”
FLORIDA HIGH 38, NFC 35
Florida High 14 0 7 7 – 7 3 — 38
NFC 0 7 7 14 – 7 0 — 35
FH — Karenz Stephens 28 pass from Isaiah Hill (Chase Allbaugh kick)
FH — Christian McGowan 18 pass from Hill (Allbaugh kick)
NFC — Jay Harrison 2 run (Matt McCardle kick)
NFC — Terrell Powell 29 pass from Avery Thomas (McCardle kick)
FH — Sawyer 11 pass from Hill (Allbaugh kick)
NFC — Korey Charles 30 run (McCardle kick)
FH — Kyle Prater 5 pass from Hill (Allbaugh kick)
NFC — Charles 39 pass from Thomas (McCardle kick)
FH — Hill 1 run (Allbaugh kick)
NFC — Nate Shafer 8 pass from Thomas
FH — Allbaugh 27 field goal
Passing— Florida High: Isaiah Hill 15-20-204-4-1; NFC: Avery Thomas 21-35-249-2-2
Rushing— Florida High: Kevin Sawyer 10-44, Trevor Lucas 4-8, Mike Greaves 11-45, Hill 7-24; NFC: Korey Charles 17-159, Terrell Powell 4-9, Jay Harrison 2-6, T.J. Ashley 2-2, Thomas 11-12
Receiving— Florida High: Karenz Stephens 4-104, Williams 4-28, Kyle Prater 2-25, Christian McGowan 3-32, Will Haigler 1-3, Sawyer 1-11; NFC: Armunz Mathews 9-129, Charles 3-48, Powell 3-51, Nate Shafer 6-21
Florida High (5-2), NFC (4-2)
Maclay at NFC, Oct. 16; Florida High at Mosley, Oct. 16
SCORES FROM AROUND THE AREA:
Chiles 34, Mosley 28
Lakeland Kathleen 21, Leon 20 (OT)
Trinity Christian 56, Godby 31
Rickards 46, FAMU DRS 20
Blountstown 27, Marianna 0
Bay 28, East Gadsden 14
Oak Hall 53, Munroe 6
Port St. Joe 35, Taylor County 12
Madison County 41, Hamilton County 6
Cambridge Christian 54, John Paul II 19
Bozeman 35, Franklin County 7
Liberty County 37, Northview 14
Rickards 46, FAMU DRS 20
Cambridge Christian 54, John Paul II 19
Graceville 60, West Gadsden 37
Florida High 38, NFC 35 (2 OT)