It is often said that to win a football game, you must win in two of the three phases of football: offense, defense and special teams.
A slip up in one of them? That can be overcome.
But to have slip ups in all three phases? That isn’t so easy to overcome.
The Space Coast Vipers faced this dilemma in a 34-20 loss to the Lake Howell Silver Hawks, a game they were at one point controlling.
With 4:45 left in the first half, Space Coast led the Silver Hawks 17-6 and had scored touchdowns on offense and special teams, thanks to a Connor Perrine 75-yard punt return for a touchdown and a Johnny Jones 50-yard touchdown run.
But from that point on, the Vipers struggled with consistency and several self-inflicted errors.
“We gotta finish the game. We talked about that at the start of the season. We had plenty of opportunities to take advantage of them, but this is a team effort and we just gotta get better.” said Space Coast head coach Jake Owens. “It was all three phases. We gotta finish games. We gotta learn how to win those games.”
It was certainly finishing the game where the errors for the Vipers began to flare up.
Shortly before the first half ended, the Vipers’ fumbled the ball. The defense then missed several chances to get off the field and gave up a touchdown before the half, a 14-yard reception by wide receiver Wisdom Jenkins from quarterback Cody Veal, that made the game 17-12 going into the half.
The third quarter went back and forth until late into the quarter, where the Vipers attempted to punt on a fourth down in their own territory, but a high snap forced the punter to fall on the ball and turn in over near Space Coast’s own end zone.
Lake Howell would then score a touchdown several plays later, but only after an unsportsmanlike conduct on a Viper brought them even closer to the end zone.
The Vipers then turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing drive and two plays later, Lake Howell responded with a 56-yard touchdown catch by Kenyon’ta Skinner.
Space Coast would kick a field goal to make the game 27-20, putting them within a touchdown with 6 minutes left. But once again an opportunity passed them by, as they failed to recover a Lake Howell fumble with 5 minutes left in the game and the Silver Hawks’ Wisdom Jenkins would recover his own teams fumble and return it to the other side of the field.
The game started late due to a weather delay and started off with several botched snaps from both teams due to the condition of the ball.
Space Coast’s Johnny Jones amassed over 150 yards in total offense and seemingly made a defender miss every time he had the ball in his hands. Jenkins and Deandre Gordon both made huge plays for Lake Howell when they needed them the most.
The biggest difference between these two teams was not talent or determination, as they were near equal in those senses. The biggest difference was that one team took advantage of late chances, and one team is still going through the growing pains of learning how to finish close games.
Lake Howell 34, Space Coast 20
Space Coast 3 14 0 3 — 20
Lake Howell 0 12 8 14 — 34
SC: Luke Galloway 21 FG, 5:27
SC: Johnny Jones 50 run (Luke Galloway kick), 9:22
LH: Deandre Gordon 1 pass from Cody Veal (errant snap on conversion), 4:59
SC: Connor Perrine 75 kickoff return (Luke Galloway kick), 4:45
LH: Wisdom Jenkins 14 pass from Cody Veal (pass failed), 1:35
LH: Clayton Ross 1 pass from Cody Veal (Deandre Gordon pass from Cody Veal), 1:22
LH: Kenyon’ta Skinner 56 pass from Cody Veal (Xavier Torres kick), 9:27
SC: Luke Galloway 28 FG, 6:29
LH: Tyson Stephonson 8 run (Xavier Torres kick), 2:40
At Lake Howell High School, Winter Park
Top performers: Space Coast: Running back Johnny Jones was the Vipers’ most explosive playmaker, amassing over 150 yards of total offense, including a 50-yard touchdown run. Lake Howell: Defensive tackle Deandre Gordon made two separate appearances on the offensive side of the ball for Lake Howell. One resulted in a 1-yard touchdown catch from Cody Veal, while another was a reception in the corner of the end zone for a 2-point conversion
Key play: With the score at 27-20 in Lake Howell’s favor with 5 minutes left, they threw the ball across the middle. The wide receiver caught it but then fumbled the ball near the Space Coast sideline. The disaster ended up being avoided after Lake Howell’s Wisdom Jenkins scooped up the fumble and ran with it for 37 yards, preventing Space Coast of one last shot at the victory.
Record: Space Coast (1-1); Lake Howell (2-0)
Next week: St. Cloud at Space Coast, 7 p.m.; Winter Springs at Lake Howell, 7 p.m.
John Shipley, for FLORIDA TODAY