Friday night’s matchup between the Florida High Seminoles and Godby Cougars was a district game with a team from across town, but can’t be described as a rivalry. Before Friday, the Seminoles had only played the Cougars one time in the last 20 years. However, being a district match up, this game had major implications for the Noles and their championship aspirations. The game was played at Chiles High school because of a scheduling conflict at Gene Cox Stadium. Even though it was a home game for the Cougars, Florida High won the “12th man” game with an overflowing and raucous crowd in the visitor stands. The Noles were up 51-7 by the end of the first half, which gave varsity back-ups and JV players who had moved up a chance to get some playing time under the Friday night lights.
Just like last week, the Noles started the game off with another electrifying kick-off return. This week the return man was senior Donovan Barnes, who received the ball around the Noles’ 25-yard line and took it right back into Cougar territory. It only took three plays for the Florida High offense to put the ball into the end zone. On the third play of the drive, the Godby defender bit on an inside move by senior receiver Brooks Hickman, who then broke into a go route and found himself all alone. Junior quarterback Jeremy Johnston dropped a 20-yard pass right into Hickman’s hands. After the ensuing 22-yard scamper by Hickman, the Noles found themselves quickly on the scoreboard. Sophomore kicker Cole Allbaugh (perfect on extra points this season!) split the uprights. The Noles were up 7-0 just minutes into the first quarter.
The Noles’ second score of the game came off a three-play drive that started on their 25-yard line. The touchdown was scored by senior running back Rhyder Poppell, who followed the blocks of the senior center Stevie Simpson, junior tackle Mark Faircloth, and senior tight end, Jack Wemm. Poppell exploded off the edge and took it 66 yards to the house.
On the next Cougar drive, senior defensive end Ryan Knight had a tackle for a loss putting Godby on their heels with a second-and-fourteen. The Cougars eventually punted the ball from their own 29-yard line, but junior running back Micahi Danzy returned it 49 yards, setting Florida High up at the prior line of scrimmage. That four-play drive was capped off by a Johnston pass to junior wide receiver Ashton Hampton. Johnston showed a lot of composure on the roll-out to his right, releasing the ball and delivering a bullet just as he took a big hit by a couple of Godby defenders.
The Cougars’ next drive only went for plus-five yards, with two tackles for loss by senior defensive back Alexander Day and a team effort by senior linebacker Chris Cotton and junior linebacker Rolando Robbins Jr. The resulting punt gave the Noles possession of the ball on their own 35-yard line. The Noles worked the clock on the subsequent 10-play drive, which was capped off by a 12-yard run by Poppell, who took it to the short side of the field through a gaping hole created by junior guard Wyatt Crosby and freshman tackle William Hathcock. Florida High extended their lead to 28-0.
The Cougars were backed up deep into their end zone on their next possession. An illegal procedure call gave them a second-and-22 from their own 8-yard line. On the next play sophomore defensive end Maurice Adams executed a textbook swim move to sack the Godby quarterback in the end zone, putting a safety on the board; Noles up 30-0.
On the subsequent kickoff, senior running back Jalon Carter returned the ball 41 yards, setting the Noles up on the Cougar 28-yard line. Danzy took the Johnston handoff on the next play and hit a hole created by Simpson and offensive lineman Sam Wemm. A downfield block by junior wide receiver Keisean Inman and Danzy’s ability to evade tacklers gave Florida High its fifth touchdown, making the score 37-0. The Cougars scored on their next possession, making the score 37-7.
The Noles’ next possession was a balanced seven-play drive with alternating runs and passes. Simpson and junior guard Collin Bishop opened the hole for the next Danzy touchdown. Danzy hit the hole so fast that he was in the next level of the defense before any of the Cougars knew it was a running play. Danzy sprinted 31-yards untouched as he bee-lined through the defense. Noles up 44-7.
The next Cougar possession was a three-and-out, which included a key tackle on a third-and-two. The play was read perfectly by senior defensive lineman Eli Williams, who ate up the Cougar runner and spit him back out a changed man. This forced Godby into a fourth-and-seven and an eventual Cougar punt.
The Noles’ next possession was, you guessed it, another scoring drive, starting on the Seminole 32-yard line. This drive included a 44-yard pass to Hampton and ended with a 10-yard Johnston pass to Poppell. The scoreboard was then set with the game’s final score as the buzzer sounded for halftime: Florida High 51 – Godby 7.
The first half only saw two Cougar first downs; both of these came late in the second quarter on a six-play drive. Godby found itself in a third-and-fifteen situation on their own 36, but a pass interference penalty on the Noles gave the Cougar drive new life, on which they capitalized on a long pass play to the endzone. Aside from that scoring drive, in the first half, the Noles’ defense held Godby to under 20 rushing and passing yards.
The second half, played entirely with a running clock, was an opportunity for the younger Seminole players to get a taste of the Friday night light experience. Freshman quarterback Cannon Cowhey played most of the third quarter and fourth, and was able to move the offense down the field. Junior defensive back Jayden Smith broke up a Cougar pass in the end zone on a play that – without his intervention – surely would have been a Godby touchdown. Although the young guys didn’t score any offensive points, this half was considered a success as they moved the ball well and held the Cougars scoreless until the final buzzer.
At the beginning of Week 8, Florida High sits atop the 2S District 3 standings, having beaten both Godby and Gadsden County. They will play their third and final district game against Marianna (1-6) in two weeks. That game is sandwiched between two important games on the Noles’ remaining schedule. Like the beginning of the season, when the Noles successfully took on some playoff-level competition early, they will finish the regular season stretch against the Chiefland Indians and the Lincoln Trojans. Chiefland is undefeated on the season and is ranked on top of 1R Region 4. This will be a true test for Florida High, who will be playing their second consecutive road game. As always, the Noles fans will show up and show out, making sure our boys feel the love from the visitor stands. See you Friday in Central Florida, fans…go Noles.