WEEKI WACHEE – Through one drive Friday night, things fell into place for Weeki Wachee.
Daytona Patterson set the host Hornets up with a 34-yard opening kickoff return, then Shawn O’Gorman carried the ball six times for 37 yards, including a 1-yard plunge up the middle for a touchdown.
But Weeki Wachee couldn’t maintain that momentum, and couldn’t get out of its own way, falling to Lecanto in a preseason classic, 14-12.
“I think we had way too many missed opportunities,” Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee said. “Lecanto’s getting better, but I really do truly believe Weeki Wachee beat Weeki Wachee tonight.
“Defensively, I thought we played very well. One drive we gave up one big play, and then they got some great turnovers for us, put us in great position on offense and we just didn’t get it done.”
The proof was in the numbers, as the Hornets committed three turnovers and were flagged 16 times for 154 yards.
Additionally, Weeki Wachee misfired on the extra point following O’Gorman’s early touchdown at the 6:22 mark of the first quarter, and failed on a 2-point conversion attempt later in the game.
In a matchup of two teams that went 3-7 in 2013, and with Lecanto heading into its first season under new head coach Greg Harper, the Panthers got out to a sluggish start. Their first five possessions ended in two turnovers on downs and three lost fumbles.
Yet the Hornets continually failed to take advantage and only carried a 6-0 lead into halftime.
Finally Lecanto broke through on the opening possession of the second half, as Ardante Anderson gashed the Weeki Wachee defense for 50 yards on three straight runs.
Jeremiah Lucas followed with a nice running catch in the end zone off a 20-yard pass by Travis McGee. Bradley Mursell’s extra point made it 7-6 Panthers.
O’Gorman quickly responded with a 48-yard dash on the Hornets’ next play from scrimmage, and new quarterback Alec Cromie connected with Eli Mendoza on a fourth-down, 14-yard pass over the middle for a score.
That gave Weeki Wachee a 12-7 edge at 5:59 in the third quarter, yet despite starting the next two possessions in Panther territory the Hornets never found the end zone again.
On the first snap of the fourth quarter, Antonio Crumbley burst up the middle for a 70-yard gain, getting tripped up by a Glen Clarke ankle tackle at the Hornet 10-yard line.
Three plays later, McGee pushed Lecanto ahead on a 1-yard quarterback sneak into the end zone with 9:54 to play.
Still, a Weeki Wachee defense plagued by an inability to stop the run held the Panthers to a respectable 126 yards on 31 carries, and did recover four fumbles.
“I thought the defense was great. We put them in a bad position and they got turnovers for us,” Lee said. “I’m very proud of the defense. That’s the best I’ve ever seen them play since we’ve been varsity.”
O’Gorman ran 20 times for 145 yards, while Patterson caught nine passes for 68 yards.
The sophomore Cromie went 13-of-25 passing for 102 yards with two interceptions against his one touchdown toss, and Lee praised his improvement since the spring.
Weeki Wachee opens the regular season by hosting Interlachen next Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“The moral victories are over for Weeki Wachee High School,” Lee said. “The bottom line is we need to win.
“I think with this group, I really think it’ll eat at some of them. Some of the leadership we have, I think they will start pushing kids and holding them accountable.”
Lecanto 14, Weeki Wachee 12
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
LEC 0 0 7 7 — 14
WW 6 0 6 0 — 12
WW – O’Gorman 1 run (Vanslee kick)
LEC – Lucas 20 pass from McGee (Mursell kick)
WW – Mendoza 14 pass from Cromie (Patterson pass from Cromie failed)
LEC – McGee 1 run (Mursell kick)
First Downs 12 11
Atts./Rushing Yds. 31-126 33-130
Comps./Pass/Atts/Int. 9-24-0 13-25-2
Passing Yds. 109 102
Total Offense 55-235 58-232
Return Yds. 5-110 3-53
Punts/Avg. 1-41.0 3-30.3
Fumbles/Lost 5-4 2-1
Penalties 8-55 16-154