Posted: 2:02 am Saturday, December 11th, 2010
By Jeff Greer
Let’s call the 2010 Glades Day Gators the Cardiac Kids. I know it’s cliche. I know that nickname is taken. But I also know that I genuinely feared for the heart health of Glades Day’s fans and coaching staff during Friday’s exhilarating Class 1B championship between Glades Day and South Daytona-Warner Christian.
After scoring the game-winning touchdown in the final two minutes against Jupiter Christian two weeks ago, I didn’t think Glades Day could top such a heart-attack-inducing finish. I was wrong.
Glades Day coach Pete Walker called me as he drove home from Orlando on Friday night, about six hours after his team’s 42-35 state-title win. He was giddy, excited that his team had just won its second consecutive state championship and seventh in school history. For the second straight year, Glades Day beat Warner Christian by a touchdown. Last year, it was 27-20 in overtime. This year, Glades Day won in regulation.
“The last two years, I’ll tell you — I don’t think I’m gonna die of a heart attack,” he said. “I would have by now if I were going to.”
He was thrilled that his team overcame a 21-0 second-quarter deficit.
“I can’t remember (a state-final comeback) like that,” he said.
No one in the press box could, either. I’m in Orlando for another day, so we’ll hopefully dig up some records (read: keep asking people, talk about how impressive it was, but never actually find any concrete answers) and report back to you.
Walker was absolutely ecstatic that his team discovered just a slight advantage that gave the Gators an edge in the second half.
1. That Jumbo set was … jumbo. Walker and his coaching staff noticed something about Warner Christian’s defense: a weakness on one side of the Eagles’ front four. After talking it over at halftime, they went to work, hammering away at that one defensive end.
“We found out that, in our Jumbo set, we could move the ball,” Walker said. “Right up the gut. We thought we could get a sure 4 or 5 yards every time. One of their defensive ends wasn’t as physical as the other one, so we just ran his way.”
Maybe that explains the yardage difference for running back Kelvin Taylor from first half to second half. The sophomore had 51 at halftime. He finished with (drum roll please …) 248. For all you (non)Einsteins out there, that’s 197 second-half yards. Taylor scored four of his five touchdowns in the second half, too.
Taylor just chipped away at his yardage. It was very different than Glades Day’s 35-29 regional final win over Jupiter Christian two weeks ago, when Taylor got hot early and ran for 437 yards and five touchdowns.
“From start to finish, he was out in the open and in the secondary a lot vs. Jupiter Christian,” Walker said. “In this one, he had to earn a lot of his yards. He started turning 5 or 6 yards into 9 or 10 yards.”
2. Let’s just say Glades Day “manned up.” So, besides implementing that Jumbo set more often, what else did Glades Day do to get the running game, ahem, running? The Gators had to execute better than they did in the process of falling behind by 21 points, right?
“They came out — for some reason — they were a bit more ready than we were,” Walker said. “They were whipping us up front.”
He used that phrase — whipping — three times today, twice right after the game, once on the phone. And he wasn’t lying. Warner Christian shot every gap in the early going and literally just bullied the Gators up front.
One opposing player once told me that to beat Glades Day, you have to seal the edge, fill each gap, and make sure there is a sure-tackler on the backside to prevent Taylor from cutting back. He loves cutting back. It’s as much his “thing” as saying “You got it, dude!” was Michelle Tanner’s “thing.” (I’ll wait while you think about it.)
Early on, Warner Christian did that. Just look at the first five series on the drive chart for Glades Day:
1. Three plays, 4 yards, 2:19, PUNT
2. Three plays, negative-5 yards, 2:11, PUNT
3. Three plays, 5 yards, 1:24, PUNT
4. Three plays, 1 yard, 1:35, PUNT
5. One play, 12 yards, 0:07, LOST FUMBLE
Over their final 10 possessions, the Gators scored six touchdowns, punted twice, turned the ball over once and ran the clock out. After four punts and a turnover, I think Walker was happy with the 70-percent success rate.
“We sort of wore them down once we got some momentum,” Walker said.
3. Boom and bust. What’s that saying, the more time in between lighting cracks and thunder booms, the farther away the storm is? Something like that, right?
Well anyway, the point is, early on, Warner Christian’s storm hovered over the Citrus Bowl. Like something serious. After trading punts, Warner Christian started its second possession at the Glades Day 30. Running back Breon Allen, who finished with 147 rushing yards, took an end-around 30 yards to the next door neighbor.
What happened? Well, Glades Day stuffed the box with 10 guys. The safeties were high up, around 5 to 8 yards off the line. There was one-on-one coverage way out left on Warner Christian’s single receiver. Allen took the end-around, slipped to the second level and then traced his way outside of his blocking receiving. Because the safeties were in so tight on the line, they didn’t have any angle advantages in their pursuit, and Allen simply outran them for the touchdown.
Same thing happened on Warner Christian’s next drive. (Well, it was one play for 80 yards, so I guess that’s not really a drive. Let’s call it a hologram. As in they literally snapped the ball, went invisible, and reappeared in the end zone).
Glades Day stacked 10 in the box again, with a focus on shutting off the edges and shooting the gaps. Warner Christian receiver Taylor Oldham, who probably would’ve won MVP if his team won the title, was in one-on-one coverage with Glades Day defensive back Mike Terrell. Warner Christian quarterback Tyler Barron took the snap and immediately lofted a 50-50 ball toward Oldham and Terrell.
Terrell did exactly what he needed, got in position and jumped with Oldham. They looked like two forwards leaping for a rebound in basketball. Oldham somehow came down with it. When he landed, Terrell slipped on the new Citrus Bowl surface. And again, with no angle advantage, the safeties tracking back to help Terrell had no chance of catching Oldham. It was an 80-yard touchdown that put Warner Christian up, 14-0.
The big plays didn’t stop there. Warner Christian forced a Corey Garcia fumble (Garcia made up for it in a big way later on) and made it count. The Eagles’ Marcus Dixon took his first carry of the ensuing drive for 20 yards. After an incomplete pass, he snuck in from 14 out to make it 21-0.
After Glades Day fought back to 21-14, Breon Allen shot 68 yards like a cannon ball at Gettysburg. He ran out of gas eventually and Terrell pushed him out at the Glades Day 22. Oldham then ran it in on the next play.
But wait, there’s more. Just moments after Glades Day tied it at 28 early in the fourth quarter, Marcus Dixon struck again, this time breaking a run 60 yards for a score.
At that point, though, the thunder and lightning strikes were so far apart that the Warner Christian storm was clearly dissipating. Taylor punched in two touchdowns over the next eight minutes or so and it was smooth sailing for the Gators.
4. Fourth downs and red-zone scoring. I’m a big stat guy. I firmly believe that you can look at a box score and, without even watching the game, figure out how Team X beat Team Y in a donnybrook of epic proportions.
So here’s what I’d notice if I didn’t go to the game:
Glades Day: 4 touchdowns on 4 possessions in the red zone, 3 for 3 on fourth-down conversions, 30 minutes of possession.
Warner Christian 1 touchdown on 1 red-zone possession, 17:39 of possession.
What does that mean? It means that Glades Day’s offense was on the field a ton. (Wow, how’d you figure that one out, Jeff?) Warner Christian wore down. Only one red-zone possession means the Eagles kept relying on big plays — lightning strikes if you will — to get on the board. That’s a dangerous game to play. Because once the opponent figures out how to prevent the home run, you’re left trying to figure out how to hit singles and doubles, something you haven’t done all game.
It also means that Glades Day came through in the clutch. Every time the Gators needed a big conversion on fourth down, they got it. Every time they pushed their way into the red zone, they got six. And in a game that had 77 points scored, you need touchdowns. They got ‘em.
5. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. I don’t want to say Warner Christian choked. That’s cruel. But I do want to show you their drive chart in the second half:
1. Interception (by Steven Williams)
2. Fumble (recovered by Javon Carrigan)
5. Fumble (recovered by Taylor Mann)
8. Interception (by Corey Garcia)
*Wriggles collar* Yeesh. That’s what we, in the biz, call a rough second half. That’s, uh, four turnovers, two touchdowns and two punts. And that, my friends, is how you lose a 21-0 lead and, in the process, give an entire opposing fan base just about 24 minutes of heart palpitations.
But you know what? I think Walker, his staff, his players and his fans will take their fluttering hearts any day of the week if it means they get results like they did today.