Blue Darters Move on to State Semifinals!

On Friday, the Blue Darters defeated First Coast 64-48 to win the Region 1-8A Finals and move on to play Bradenton Manatee in the State Semifinals on Friday, December 2nd at 7:30pm EST in Apopka. 1520 WBZW will of course carry the game live.

Click here to listen to the radio broadcast archive of Apopka vs First Coast.

(following story reprinted from the Orlando Sentinel)

Apopka coach Rick Darlington knew Jacksonville First Coast’s offense would be difficult to stop or even slow down.

But a key stop here and there worked well for the Blue Darters on Friday night.

Apopka changed the direction of a back-and-forth game with a pair of touchdowns in a 23-second span in the third quarter. As was the case last year, First Coast was unable to play catch up, as the Blue Darters came away with a wild 64-48 Region 1-8A final victory at the Shipyard.

“They’re a hard team to stop,” Darlington said. “But the defense made stops when they had to.”

Apopka's Demetri Burch rushed for 119 yards in the 64-48 victory over Jacksonville First Coast. (Stephen M. Dowell, Orlando Sentinel)

Apopka’s Demetri Burch rushed for 119 yards in the 64-48 victory over Jacksonville First Coast. (Stephen M. Dowell, Orlando Sentinel)

Last year, Darlington’s team stopped First Coast (12-1) to earn a trip to the state semifinals. This year, slowing down the Buccaneers means Apopka (9-4) is one game away from its third consecutive state final appearance. The Blue Darters meet Bradenton Manatee next week after Manatee knocked off Dr. Phillips, which shared the top ranking in the state with First Coast.

Unlike last year’s game, when Apopka struck early against First Coast and had the game in hand, this was in doubt at the half, with the Blue Darters holding a 29-28 lead.

Apopka forced a three-and-possession by the Bucs to start the second half and then scored on a 12-play drive with less than six minutes left in the third quarter. On First Coast’s next offensive play, Billy Caughell picked off a pass to set his team up at the Bucs 13. Deshawn Massey swept left on the next play for the touchdown.

“That’s what really helped us,” said Apopka back Chandler Cox, who rushed for 156 yards and two scores and passed for another. “At halftime, we said we needed to pull away. We can’t keep this close. The defense had to hold them to help us do that.”

Just like that, a one-point edge became a 14-point gap, vital as the Bucs could not slow down Apopka’s offense. First Coast gave up one 100-yard rusher all season. The Bucs gave up three in one game as Cox, Massey (167 yards), and Demetri Burch (119) all hit the threshold.

Bucs quarterback D’Andre Johnson rolled up the stats, passing for 386 yards and seven touchdowns, making him No. 2 on the state’s all-time touchdown passes list. But the one interception and three other empty possessions kept his team chasing the Blue Darters and again meant frustration for First Coast.

Apopka 64, First Coast 48

FIRST – A: Massey 5 run (L’Heureux kick); FC: Stepherson 27 pass from Johnson (Blake kick); A: Burch 6 run (L’Heureux kick); FC: Matthews 55 pass from Johnson (Blake kick). SECOND – FC: Matthews 24 pass from Johnson (Blake kick); A; Burch 3 run (L’Heureux kick); FC: Stepherson 31 pass from Johnson (Blake kick); A: Burch 5 run (Simmons run). THIRD – A: Massey 9 run (L’Heureux kick); A: Massey 13 run (run failed); FC: Washington 6 pass from Johnson (kick failed). FOURTH – A: Crider 43 pass from Cox (Cox run). FC: Matthews 18 pass from Johnson (pass failed). A: Cox 17 run (L’Heureux kick). FC: Payton 44 pass from Johnson (Payton pass from Johnson). A: Cox 13 run (L’Heureux kick).

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